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Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer of the romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. He was honored in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension.
Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky's life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. Contributory factors included his early separation from his mother for boarding school followed by his mother's early death, the death of his close friend and colleague Nikolai Rubinstein, and the collapse of the one enduring relationship of his adult life, which was his 13-year association with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck who was his patron even though they never actually met each other. His homosexuality, which he kept private, has traditionally also been considered a major factor, though some musicologists now downplay its importance. Tchaikovsky's sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera; there is an ongoing debate as to whether cholera was indeed the cause of death, and whether his death was accidental or self-inflicted.
Tchaikovsky displayed an unusually wide stylistic and emotional range, from salon works of innocuous charm to symphonies of tremendous depth, power, and grandeur. Some of his works, such as the Variations on a Rococo Theme, employ a poised "Classical" form reminiscent of 18th-century composers such as Mozart (his favorite composer). Other compositions, such as his Little Russian symphony and his opera Vakula the Smith, flirt with musical practices more akin to those of the Five, especially in their use of folk song. Other works, such as Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies, employ a personal musical idiom that facilitated intense emotional expression.