It is generally accepted that Tchaikovsky was one of the world’s most gifted composers. He was born in Votkinsk in Russia on 7th May 1840, the second son of a mining engineer. His talent for music was evident from a tender age but his formal education began at the age of eight, after the family had moved to St. Petersburg. He was a very sensitive child and the move caused him great unhappiness – not helped at all by being later sent to boarding school. He graduated in law and began work as a clerk. However his only release was music and he started to attend classes in composition. After a few years he resigned his post and became a full time student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He studied harmony, composition, took piano and flute lessons and gained entry into the Conservatoire orchestra.

He reached the height of his creativity by his mid-thirties, and it was around this time that he began to correspond with Nadezhda von Meck, who supported him financially and mentally for some fourteen years.
His three ballets, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker are still frequently performed all over the world. Classical music lovers must have several Tchaikovsky pieces in their favourites list, whether it be one of his symphonies or his violin concerto, 1812 or Fantasy overture, a string quartet, the list is almost endless…
Tchaikovsky’s cause of death was reported at the time as cholera due to drinking unboiled water, but it is generally believed that he took poison because a career-ending scandal was about to break.

Capriccio Italien (Pyotr Tchaikovsky 1840-1893)

Tchaikovsky composed Capriccio Italien in 1880 after a visit to Rome. Apparently he was very taken with much of the music he heard there, especially the folk music - much of which he heard at a carnival, and the fanfare at the beginning reflected an army bugle call heard from his hotel. It is also said that he found inspiration in Glinka’s Spanish Pieces.
The work was initially well received, but the composer is reported to have later doubted if the work contained any musical merit. He subsequently arranged it for piano.
The piece is regularly played at Flute Band Own Choice Contests.

Marche Slave (Pyotr Tchaikovsky)
Marche Slave was commissioned by the Russian Musical Society for a concert in aid of the Red Cross Society – effectively for the benefit of Serbian soldiers wounded in the 1876-78 war between Serbia and the Ottoman Empire; it was premiered in Moscow in November 1876.
The first section describes the oppression of the Serbs by the Turkish, and uses two Serbian folk songs. The second describes the Russians coming to the Slavs’ aid including a rendering of the Russian national anthem. While the third section is about the Serbs call for help, the final part is about the Russians soldiers marching to help the Serbs – there are even a few hints from the 1812 Overture.
The piece was scored for a relatively small orchestra.