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Tchaikovsky’s compositional process

Does anybody know about Tchaikovsky’s compositional process and how he worked? I find this especially interesting as a musician/composer and I have recently gained a new appreciation for his music after writing a research paper on the conspiracies surrounding his death.


Rachel Walker


Nobody replies. So I would like to mention. Pyotr Ilyich was Mr. Punctuality. In his childhood his governess Fanny Duerbach taught him this practice.In his last years, he got up at seven or eight everymorning. Then he drank a cup of tea, and read the Bible or studied English. He took a walk for half-hour. At that time he got ideas for a composition. He took notes of them.

From nine thirty to thirteen o'clock, he composed. At thirteen he took lunch. After lunch he took walk alone everyday fine or rainy.At sixteen, afternoon tea-time. He read newspapers or met visitors. From seventeen to nineteen o'clock, he composed again.In summer before dinner he took a walk alone or with a friend. In autumn and winter he played piano.

After dinner he played card games, read books or wrote letters. And at twenty-three he went to bed.

After morning walk He sketched at piano. Then he made a draft. Another time he orchestrated or arranged it.At the composition time, servant Aleksei Sofronov was only permitted person to enter Pyotr Ilyich's study.

Sorry for my poor English, but hope this helps you.

Best regards,

Kamomeno Iwao

Hi Rachel,

You ask about Tchaikovsky's compositional process and how he worked. Well here is an article describing in depth the whole process at least as it involved the Fifth is one person's attempt at interpretation of what the composer was going through....there are technical aspects but in general I think it is intelligible for most....its rather detailed so it requires some patience....In any case I think it is a good analysis....tho perhaps subjective....

I hope this is of some value to you.

Albert Gasparo

Tchaikovsky's compositional process in his own described to Madame von Meck regarding the creation of his Fourth Symphony....

Albert Gasparo

Tchaikovsky gives a lively description of his compositional process at the start of his letter to Nadezhda von Meck from Florence on 17 February/1 March 1878 before setting out the "programme" of the Fourth Symphony:

"Generally speaking, the germ of a future composition comes suddenly and unexpectedly. If the soil is ready—that is to say, if the disposition for work is there—it takes root with extraordinary force and rapidity, shoots up through the earth, puts forth branches, leaves, and, finally, blossoms. I cannot define the creative process in any other way than by this simile. The great difficulty is that the germ must appear at a favourable moment, the rest goes of itself. It would be in vain to try to put into words that immeasurable sense of bliss which comes over me directly a new idea awakens in me and begins to assume a definite form. I forget everything and behave like a madman. Everything within me starts pulsing and quivering; hardly have I begun the sketch ere one thought follows another. In the midst of this magic process it frequently happens that some external interruption wakes me from my somnambulistic state: a ring at the bell, the entrance of my servant, the striking of the clock, reminding me that it is time to leave off. Dreadful, indeed, are such interruptions. Sometimes they break the thread of inspiration for a considerable time, so that I have to seek it again—often in vain. In such cases cool headwork and technical knowledge have to come to my aid…"

(Quoted from Rosa Newmarch (ed.), The Life and Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky [1905] (2004), p. 274-275)

In a letter to his former student Sergei Taneev on 1/13 August 1880 he observed that composers should avoid "clever theories" and always write music "as their heart tells them". However, he also recognized that inspiration only came to those who sought it out actively, and so he often compared his job to that of an artisan, as in this interview from 1892:

"My system of work is purely craftsmanlike, that is, absolutely regular, always at the same hours of the day, without any leniency with respect to myself. I conceive musical ideas as soon as I take up my work, as I turn my attention from thoughts and concerns that are foreign to my labor. The majority of ideas, incidentally, arise in me during my daily walks; moreover, in view of my unusually poor musical memory, I carry a notebook with me"

("A Conversation with P. I. Tchaikovsky". Quoted from Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky through Others’ Eyes (1999), p. 202)

Luis Sundkvist

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