In 1848 the family moved to St. Petersburg. Tchaikovsky was unhappy and unsettled as he was often separated from his family who moved several times. In 1854 his mother died. He tried to comfort himself by playing music. He spent nine years at the School of Jurisprudence. When he left school, he had to get a job. For four years he worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice . Then the composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein helped him to become a music student at the newly opened conservatory in St. Petersburg. He learned to play the flute and the organ as well as the piano and learning all about composition. In 1866 he moved to Moscow where Nikolai Rubinstein , the brother of Anton, encouraged him to write music with a Russian character. He worked very hard, and was often exhausted, but he managed to finish his First Symphony, which was performed in 1868.
In 1866, the composer relocated to Moscow, accepting a professorship of harmony at the new conservatory, and shortly afterward turned out his First Symphony, suffering, however, a nervous breakdown during its composition. His opera The Voyevoda came in 1867-1868 and he began another, The Oprichnik, in 1870, completing it two years later. Other works were appearing during this time, as well, including the First String Quartet (1871), the Second Symphony (1873), and the ballet Swan Lake (1875).
Three publications are recommended: Campbell 1994 for eyewitness descriptions of 19th-century Russian musical life, Frolova-Walker 2007 for a reevaluation of Russian musical nationalism, and Maes 2006 for a gloss on Tchaikovsky’s career.