Modest Ilyich was born in Alapayevsk, Perm Governorate, the younger brother of the future composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He graduated from the School of Jurisprudence with a degree in law. In 1876, Modest became the tutor to a deaf-mute boy Nikolai ("Kolya") Hermanovich Konradi (1868–1922) and, using a special teaching method, helped him to talk, write, and read.
Tchaikovsky: Iolanta (Иоланта – Iolanthe), Op. 69, 1891, based on the Danish play Kong Renés Datter (King René’s Daughter) by Henrik Hertz, translated by Fyodor Miller and adapted by Vladimir Rafailovich Zotov. Premiered: 1892, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg.