The first, in 1958, included two disciplines - piano and violin. Beginning with the second competition, in 1962, a cello category was added, and the vocal division was introduced during the third competition in 1966. In 1990, a fifth discipline was announced for the IX International Tchaikovsky Competition - a contest for violin makers which was held before the main competition.
An artistic competition is a traditional starting point for gifted young musicians as it gives them a chance to encounter the admiration of an audience, be initiated into the worldwide professional community, and start a brilliant international career.
In Russia the Competition is considered a landmark of national musical culture. Each of its editions is one of the key events in the social and cultural life of the country.
Past editions have spawned such renowned musicians as pianists Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mikhail Pletnev, Grigory Sokolov; violinists Viktor Tretiakov, Gidon Kremer, Victoria Mullova; cellists David Geringas, Nathaniel Rosen, Antonio Meneses and singers Evgeny Nesterenko, Elena Obraztsova and Deborah Voigt.