The Russian Composers

When it comes to classical music, there are a host of very talented Russian composers.  But of all the excellent ones from which to choose, a handful are like the cream which rises to the top.  Here are my nominations:

Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Пётр Ильич Чайкoвский), Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (Сергей Васильевич Рахманинов), Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (Моде́ст Петро́вич Му́соргский) and Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin (Александр Порфирьевич Бородин).

Each left a profound influence on the world of music.  Each gained the admiration of music fans around the world.  Each left a legacy of music brillance to be enjoyed by future generations.

This article begins with the work of Tchaikovsky who was born in 1840, began piano lessons at age 5 and as a young man was enrolled in the St Petersburg Conservatory.  It was at the time when he was a student of the Conservatory that he became associated with, but not a member of “The Mighty Handful” known in English as “The Big Five,” a group of Russia’s most talented musicians.  This group, “The Big Five” had the aim of producing a specifically Russian kind of art music, rather than one that imitated older European music or relied on European-style conservatory training.  Tchaikovsky blended well with those composers but he did not share their nationalistic goals.

Unhappily married, Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality, as well as its importance to his life and music, has been known to the West for at least 75 years. Suppressed in Russia by the Soviets, it has only recently become widely known in post-Soviet Russia.  He wrote many religious scores both of vocal works for the liturgy, but also instrumental works as well. He lived to be 53 years of age and died of cholera.

Here are some of the most well-loved Tchaikovsky compositions:

The Nutcracker

Swan Lake

1812 Overture

The Sleeping Beauty

Romeo and Juliet


Follow this link to watch (black & white TV) the original Soviet broadcast of Romeo and Juliet


This website is dedicated to researching the life and legacy of this magnificient Russian composer:


Our next program in this series will feature the music of Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff.

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