Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsky, Russia in 1840. At the age of four, he composed his first song and soon began piano lessons. When Tchaikovsky was 19, his studies for a career in law gave way to his childhood love of music to which he would devote his life. In 1861, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music and by 1866, Tchaikovsky had begun to teach theory of composition in Moscow and became a local celebrity with his compositions.
In 1876, Tchaikovsky was able to turn his attention fully to composing through the patronage of Nadezhda von Meck. With the aid of her funding, he completed many of his most well-known works including Eugene Onegin, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, among others. In 1890, von Meck suddenly announced that she was bankrupt and could no longer support Tchaikovsky. Her claim was false and although the composer was no longer financially dependent on her, it was a shattering blow to his self-esteem. This occurred during his writing of the score for The Nutcracker and added to the difficulties he was having composing for what he considered an uninspiring scenario.
The last three years of Tchaikovsky’s life were filled with great despondency and he did not live to see the success of The Nutcracker.
Tchaikovsky died on November 6, 1893.