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Tchaikovsky Composer Study

Updated on June 30, 2015

Study the Master of Romantic Music -- Tchaikovsky

Remember the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies? Even if you think you don't, I'm positive that you do! Listen to this midi file and you'll instantly recognize the tune. That famous piece was written by Tchaikovsky as part of The Nutcracker ballet.

Peter Tchaikovsky lived from 1840 - 1893 and is considered one of the great Romantic composers of Western music. He took passionate and fanciful tales such as Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty and set them to beautiful music that was usually performed in ballets. Because most children are familiar with the stories of Tchaikovsky's music, he is a great musician to begin your habit of composer study.

In a Charlotte Mason styled composer study, you listen to the artist's works repeatedly for an entire term. Studying biographical information is optional, but can enhance a study, especially for older children. But keep the study enjoyable by focusing on the music itself. As you listen, try to name the pieces so that eventually your children (and you!) will come to recognize the composer and the music. It's such a joy to be in a public place and have your child identify the music playing in the background! That is the purpose of a Charlotte Mason composer study -- familiarity with music and composers' styles as well as a love for the music itself.

Studying Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky lived during the Romantic period of music. That's after the Baroque and Classical but before Modern music. Romantic music tends to be fanciful, imaginative, and passionate. Composers were beginning to gain fame and the paying audiences that went along with fame. With a broad market for their music, Romantic composers had the freedom to express themselves how they chose instead of catering to the desires of wealthy princes and kings. Up until this time, no one had created fantastical music about fairies and wicked witches! But Tchaikovsky did!

Some of his most famous pieces, and ones that you'll want to include in your study are:

  • The Nutcracker Suite
  • Swan Lake
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Sleeping Beauty
  • the 1812 Overture
  • Symphony #6 - the Pathetique
  • the Piano Concerto in Bb.

Karadar Classical Music also has a few free music files. And the BBC offers some selections in both excerpt and full tracks.

Besides listening to Tchaikovsky's music, you may want to explore some of these related topics.

The Celesta

Tchaikovsky is the first major composer to use the celesta (pictured to the left) in a symphony orchestra. Especially well known for the use of the celesta is the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy from the Nutcracker ballet.


  • Beautiful coloring pages created from photographs of actual dancers are available at New York City Ballet.


Interesting Fact

At its premiere in Russia in 1892, The Nutcracker was a failure with the public and critics. Tchaikovsky died less than a year later, not knowing what a huge international success the ballet would become.

Download Tchaikovsky for Instant Composer Study

Amazon's MP3 downloads have rescued me a couple of times when I didn't have what I needed for a lesson. Plan a few hours to download the entire album.

Although you can get free MP3 or midi files online, I find the convenience of having one disc worth the expense.

Learn to Spell His Name

Simply spelling Tchaikovsky is a feat in itself!

Break it down


T It starts with a "tea." What kind of tea?

CHAI The kind of tea drunk in India.

KOV Spelled just like it sounds.

SKY Not ski but in the sky, like dancers leaping upwards in a Tchaikovsky ballet.

Highly Recommended Tchaikovsky Resource - Audio Story with Music

Tchaikovsky Discovers America
Tchaikovsky Discovers America
This fictional account describes Tchaikovsky's 1891trip to America where he conducted the New York Symphony at the opening of Carnegie Hall. This audio CD will be listened to again and again! It's a great story -- funny, suspenseful, and touching. Here is a simple PDF with questions and a map to fill in. This is suitable for even the youngest children.

VOX Story of Tchaikovsky - Audio Music and Story

The Story of Tchaikovsky in Words and Music
The Story of Tchaikovsky in Words and Music
This audio disc has a biographical account of Tchaikovsky's life with music clips interspersed among the story. This audio is for more mature listeners since it lacks the dramatic narration and humor of the Classical Kids CD. The tone is more serious.

Ballet Coloring Book


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Even with my last homeschooler we loved Tchaikovsky and at the end of the studio he created a mini lapbook inspired by yours.

      Thanks for the inspiration

    • Natalia Toro profile image

      Natalia Toro 

      7 years ago

      Great lens! It would be neat to see links to music courses (whether in a book or audio or an online format etc.).

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I like Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker ballet is one of my favorites.

    • Rangoon House profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      My favourite and a stunning composer - his works are a great gift to the world.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      That third picture looks like Tchaikovsky with a mohawk. I enjoy classical music and his is probably one of my favorite eras.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image


      8 years ago

      Great job! The Celesta is an awesome instrument! I'm featuring your lens in my new lens on composer Mark Mancina. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I like your simple and direct approach and the resources you've bundled for a favorite composer of mine. Thanks for your work on Squidoo!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      OMG! But Tchaikovsky is surely one of my all time favorites of the masters -- I could actually see me doing schooling on the masters as YOU have presented them -- too bad YOU are so far away!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      he is the best....i love his music especially ballet....he is the best song writer

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you most thoughtfully for your layered lens into this magnificent composer, Ms Mason. My husband and I are enjoying his "Nutcracker Suite" during this Christmas Eve. Another consideration for review (as I am sure you may have already regarded it as the Author of enlightment into such auditory food for the ears) is an Author named Alexandria Vodarsky-Shiraeff whose work we stumbled upon by chance this Merry Eve. Her (I would imagine it is a "her") study is named "Russian Composers and Musicians" and it was published in 1940. Speaks of Tchaikovski but without the "T". Also known as "Chaikovski". A banquet of other Russian composers are featured as well...

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent lens. I love Tchaikovsky's music.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is very timely for us. This is exactly what we were planning to start with - having never done a composer study before, and I hadn't really been sure how to go about it. Thank you so much.

    • bigjimj profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent job on this lens. Tchaikovsky is one of my favorite composers. I recommend reading the book "Beloved Friend" about his benefactress that he never actually met.

    • profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      11 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Enjoyed reading about Tchaikovsky and even learned to spell his name!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      11 years ago from Royalton

      I love the Charlotte Mason philosophy of just listening to the music over and over in order to recognize it when heard elsewhere. My oldest studied ballet for years and loves to dance to Tchaikovsky's beautiful music.

      Lensrolled to Sugar Plum Ballerinas.


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