That the marriage was a total disaster should be no surprise. Tchaikovsky immediately left his new bride after the honeymoon and promptly had a nervous breakdown. Just what a nervous breakdown is, I've never had explained to me. No doubt it's a catch-all phrase for depression or some such other mental problem. In any case, Tchaikovsky fled to Switzerland. He tried to divorce his wife, and she at first agreed but she changed her mind and threatened to disclose his secret should he press for a divorce. They stayed married and Tchaikovsky seems to have come to terms with his proclivities.
The work opens with a fanfare for trumpets, a tune he heard played outside the window of his hotel in Rome. The piece goes through a number of folk songs of differing moods, and ends with a rousing tarantella, the dance that legend says is caused by the bite of the tarantula spider and makes the victim dance a frenzied dance until death.