Obviousness. If you were to ask people in Russia, “Who is the nation’s greatest poet?” ten out of ten would answer “Pushkin” with absolute sincerity, and they would be right. And if you were to ask them what the most famous piece of Russian classical symphonic music was, eight out of ten would name Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 (if they ventured an answer at all), and this too would be completely correct.
What are the reasons for this? It would be difficult to give an exhaustive list, but some obvious ones immediately spring to mind. Tchaikovsky was a genius in terms of lyrical music, and many of his compositions are compelling in their beauty and soulfulness. He was a Russian genius; the breadth of melodic flow in his scores is remarkable. It is also worth noting that prior to Tchaikovsky nothing comparable to the First Piano Concerto had existed in the Russian musical tradition, nor was there anything like it in the rest of the world’s concert music (post-Beethoven): it was unlike Schumann’s refined chamber-like Concerto, and even less akin to the concerti of Liszt, with their theatrical pathos. No one would dispute the fact that Tchaikovsky’s piano music owes much to both Schumann and Liszt, as well as to Anton Rubinstein, yet throughout the Concerto the piano offers a heartfelt and warm pronouncement by an emphatically Russian composer.