"Tchaikovsky was made for ballet," writes musicologist David Brown  Before him, musicologist Francis Maes writes, ballet music was written by specialists, such as Ludwig Minkus and Cesare Pugni , "who wrote nothing else and knew all the tricks of the trade."  Brown explains that Tchaikovsky's gift for melody and orchestration, his ability to write memorable dance music with great fluency and his responsiveness to a theatrical atmosphere made him uniquely qualified in writing for the genre.  Above all, Brown writes, he had "an ability to create and sustain atmosphere: above all, a faculty for suggesting and supporting movement ... animated by an abundant inventiveness, above all rhythmic, within the individual phrase."  In comparing Tchaikovsky to French composer Léo Delibes , whose ballets Tchaikovsky adored, Brown writes that while the two composers shared similar talents, the Russian's passion places him in a higher league than that of the Frenchman. Where Delibes' music remains decorative, Tchaikovsky's touches the senses and achieves a deeper significance.  Tchaikovsky's three ballets, Maes says, forced an aesthetic re-evaluation of music for that genre. 
Born on May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk in the Vyatka district of Russia, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the son of a successful engineer. Peter and his brothers and sister received a sound education from their French governess. His parents sometimes took him to concerts, and after one such evening he complained that he could not fall asleep because of the music stuck in his head. He was devoted to his mother, and at age four he and his sister composed a song for her. Her death when he was fourteen was a huge blow to him.