Composer of operas (Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades), ballets (Swan Lake, The Nutcracker), symphonies and concertos, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was successful in every genre he turned his hand to. A well-travelled Russian, Tchaikovsky attended the first season of Carmen at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1875 (he had the highest admiration for Bizet’s opera) and, the following year, the first Ring cycle at Bayreuth. He conducted at the official opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891 and travelled to England in 1893 to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge. His stature inside Russia was immense and his music to this day remains a staple of the concert repertory everywhere. His death remains shrouded in mystery. It was long thought that he died from cholera after drinking contaminated water, but it is also possible that he was forced to take his own life to avoid a public scandal involving a sexual relationship he had with a young man of noble birth. In any case, his death at the age of 53 was horribly premature.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra