Tchaikovsky is considered as one of the most talented Russian composers of the 19th century. Unlike many other Russian composers of his time, he studied at a conservatory and made the western music theory his own. So, he was not as distrustful of western music as the group of nationalistic composers surrounding Balakirev. Yet, Tchaikovsky sought to express the typical Russian mentality just as much and used many Russian folk songs in his music.
He had a good relationship with Balakirev, who helped him with constructive feedback on his first masterpiece, the overture of Romeo and Juliet. At times, Tchaikovsky was emotionally unstable, which has often been attributed to struggles with his homosexuality. His decision to marry proved to be disastrous and plunged him into a deep crisis. Yet, the passionate letters of his fiance, even though they barely knew each other, did inspire him to compose his succesful opera Evgenij Onegin.
Tchaikovsky had the wonderful gift of composing the most beautiful, lyric melodies. He had a feeling for creating a certain atmosphere in his music and mastered the art of orchestration. Moreover, he excelled in dance music, which made him the ideal composer for ballet. With his ballets The Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker he brought the genre to a higher level. During his life, he was already a celebrity. He often did tours to conduct his music and in the USA he was welcomed as a star. He died unexpectedly, nine days after the premiere of his incredibly gloomy Sixth Symphony, probably of cholera. Some other highlights of his body of works are his First Piano Concerto, his Violin Concerto and the Rococo-variations.