Piotr (or Peter, as we would say in English) Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk, a town in Russia’s Ural Mountains. When he was 8 years old, his family moved to the capital city of St. Petersburg. Even though Tchaikovsky was a good musician as a kid, that wasn’t considered an “acceptable” profession, so his parents made him study law instead.
But even in law school, Tchaikovsky continued to study music. Eventually, he gave up his legal job and went to the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After he graduated, he moved to Moscow to teach at the new conservatory there. It’s now named for him.
For years, Tchaikovsky had a patroness named Nadezhda von Meck — a wealthy widow who was a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s music. She regularly sent him money so that he could concentrate on composing without having to worry about making a living. But Nadezhda von Meck didn’t want to meet Tchaikovsky. For 14 years, they only communicated by writing letters to each other. Tchaikovsky dedicated his Fourth Symphony to his patroness.
Tchaikovsky traveled all over Europe for performances of his music. In 1891, he even came to America for the opening of Carnegie Hall, where he was invited to conduct his music.