Pyotr Il`yich Tchaikovsky was born to a middle class family in Votkinsk, Russia on 7th May 1840. He was the son of Ilya Petrovich Tchaikovsky, a mining engineer and Alexandra Andreyevna Assier, a Russian woman of French ancestry. Even as a boy, Tchaikovsky was said to be emotional, intense, and complex.
Brilliantly intellectual, Tchaikovsky at first opted to study law. However, well into his law studies, Tchaikovsky determined that the profession was an ill suited choice for someone of his emotional temperament.
Fortunately, Tchaikovsky was also talented musically - gifted, in fact, he had studied the piano from the age of five, and he was accepted into the Conservatory of St. Petersburg to study music. In 1866 he went to Moscow to become the professor of harmony at the new conservatory headed by Nicholas Rubinstein, he held the post for over ten years. In his first two years, he wrote his first symphony (Winter Daydreams) and first opera (Voyevod). From 1869 to 1876, Tchaikovsky wrote three more operas, and the Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb- (1st movement).
In 1877, Tchaikovsky made the disastrous mistake of marrying one of his pupils, Antonina Ivanova Miliukova. Tchaikovsky was a hyperemotional, unhappy and secretive homosexual hoping that a respectable marriage would be a workable solution to his plight. He deeply regretted his decision and two weeks after the wedding the composer supposedly attempted suicide by walking into the Moska River in the hopes of contracting pneumonia. Once recovered from the effects of that, he fled to St Petersburg his mind verging on a nervous breakdown.
A far more influential woman in Tchaikovsky`s life was a wealthy widow, Nadezhda von Meck, with whom he exchanged over 1,200 letters between 1877 and 1890, after hearing the music written by the young Tchaikovsky, she was so impressed that she offered to financially underwrite his composition efforts. Her only stipulation was that they correspond only in writing and that they never meet in person. Tchaikovsky consented, though the stipulation was odd. For fourteen years, Tchaikovsky poured out his heart in his letters to the widow, telling her his hopes, frustrations, impressions, and even disappointments. And for fourteen years, her financial assistance allowed Tchaikovsky the freedom to compose. With time, however, Tchaikovsky became a brilliant success and he no longer needed his benefactress`s assistance.
In 1893, Tchaikovsky completed the Pathetique Symphony No. 6 and conducted it in St. Petersburg to a rather apathetic response. Unfortunately, he would not live to see its ultimate success. Most biographers of Tchaikovsky`s life have considered his death to have been caused by cholera after drinking contaminated (unboiled) water, he died on 6th November 1893. In recent years, some have proffered another theory: he committed suicide for dark reasons growing out of his homosexual entanglements and fear of creating a scandal.