Famous Russian Composers


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

“His skills began to get better and better and soon he realized he must pursue music as a profession. “

Part 1

Russian Composers

Russia has produced some of the best artists the world has ever known. Russia is known for their excellent ballet dancers and impressive architecture but especially captivating is Russian music, namely the work of composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich. These two giants shook the musical world and changed the way the art form is understood. Both composers produced a monumental amount of work under extreme amounts of stress. This article will focus on the life and work of composers Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.   

Tchaikovsky was born in the year 1840. As a young child he attended a prestigious school, with the goal of joining the civil service. Very soon his father realized his talents and hired some of the best music teachers to teach young Tchaikovsky. During this time music was not part of the Russian education curriculum, music education took place outside of school. His skills began to get better and better and soon he realized he must pursue music as a profession. Once set on music, Tchaikovsky decided to attend the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After he graduated from the conservatory he moved to Moscow where he began teaching music. Once at the school in Moscow Tchaikovsky began producing numerous operas and symphonies. The operas received mixed reviews from critics. Tchaikovsky was extremely lucky when he met Nadezhda a wealthy woman who sponsored Tchaikovsky. This enabled Tchaikovsky to quit his job at the conservatory and focus on music. His music really flourished during this period but eventually his luck ran out and he lost support from Nadezhda. After a tour of the U.S. Tchaikovsky produced the famous ballet piece the Nutcracker.   


Part 2

Dimitri Shostakovich 

Shostakovich the other famous Russian composer was born in the year 1906. Unlike Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich had success early in his musical career. He was an extremely talented piano player and his first written music received critical acclaim. Shostakovich unfortunately started experiencing setbacks in the 1930’s. Joseph Stalin the leader of the entire country of Russia hated his music. After being bashed in the press for his experimental music Dmitri’s friends abandoned him and some were sent away. Luckily Shostakovich survived Stalin’s rage and was able to keep producing music.



In the 1940’s during the start of World War Two Shostakovich was staying in St. Petersburg now renamed Leningrad. The Nazis broke through Russian defenses and eventually reached the city. The Germans began laying siege to the city of Leningrad and Shostakovich was forced to leave the city. While the city was under siege he composed an exciting symphony. Embittered and tired after months of starvation what was left of the Leningrad symphony performed Dimitri’s music. The seven-teen brave musicians hardly able to perform, gave hope to the entire city and gave the Russian troops a fighting chance after months of starvation and death. The performance was broadcasted on speakers throughout the city and even towards the Nazi troops. Eventually the Russians broke through and pushed the Germans back, freeing the city of Leningrad.             

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