Tchaikovsky, who is most famously known for his triumphant nationalistic _'1812 Overture'_ and the favourite Christmas ballet _'The Nutcracker'_, actually led a rather tortured life. He suffered from depression, a broken marriage, ensuing guilt over his homosexuality, and (more bizarrely) a deep & inexplicable fear that his head would fall off when he was conducting. Just to add to his strange situation, for a long time he was financially supported by a wealthy widow, Nadieshda von Meck, who insisted they never actually meet! Poignant, therefore, was his claim that the beauties found only in Music were _"a perpetual reconcilement to life."_
His symphonic works, which include lyrical and dramatic elements, show less constraint in the handling of the symphonic form than many of his Western contemporaries; And his ballets, in particular _'The Nutcracker'_, achieve a synthesis between symphonic and dramatic forms that put the genre on a level with symphonies or operas. His refined sense of instrumentation and the expressiveness of his music unfolds both in an extroverted character - as in his stage works - and in an inward, psychological direction - as with his 6th Symphony (the _'Pathéthique'_), one of the great symphonic masterpieces of all time.
Suggested listening: _Symphony No2_ - which combines Russian folk song with classical form. _Symphony No4_ - one of his greatest works.