Composer Study: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with ballet.  One of the first cassettes I ever remember purchasing was music from Tchaikovsky’s three ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker.  Even people without a connection to ballet are probably familiar with these musical works, but they were a part of my very being.  In my piano lessons I worked harder on Tchaikovsky pieces than anything else, just because he had composed those three ballets.   I no longer eat, sleep, and breathe all things ballet, but even so, there is something magical for me about this music, so I really enjoyed our composer study this past month on Piotr (Peter) Illyich Tchaikovsky.

Audio Resources

Tchaikovsky wrote a lot more than just ballet music, so we had plenty of listening options this month.  The boys were already familiar with a lot of his music from Nutcracker, so we mostly focused on the 1812 overture (what boy wouldn’t love the idea of a cannon being fired as part of an orchestral piece?) and the music from Swan Lake.  Here’s what was on our composer playlist for the month:

Video Resources  

As usual, the boys knew many of the themes we were listening to from watching Little Einsteins episodes that feature music by Tchaikovsky:

The boys loved watching the part of Fantasia that contains the Nutcracker Suite, and we were all amazed by a YouTube video of the Great Chinese State Circus doing a scene from Swan Lake (not pure ballet, but SO worth watching just to see the main dancer’s incredible balance).  Ian also enjoyed watching an entire performance(in two sittings) put on by the Kirov Ballet.


To help Ian understand what we were watching and listening to, I got a copy of Margot Fonteyn’s retelling of Swan Lake.  The illustrations are by Trina Schart Hyman (who also illustrated the Caldecott award-winning St. George and the Dragon, one of the boys’ favorite books).  He loved this book and brought it to me to read over and over throughout the month.  We also read Tchaikovsky Discovers America, which tells the same story as the Classical Kids CD from a different perspective.

Once again, a month flew by and we were saying good-bye to Tchaikovsky just as we felt like we were starting to get to know him.  We’re getting ready to move so we’ll be taking a break.  I think we’ll use this next month or so to go back and revisit some of the composers we’ve already learned about.


Posted on April 9, 2013, in Charlotte Mason, Composer Study and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dellene Harned

    GIve me a list of some of the composers that you still plan to study for this year and next. I have some homeschool curriculum that I have written and used for the HOPE Music Program when I teach “Composer Class” for home schoolers. Be happy to share some with you!

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