Letter 3391

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Date 28 October/9 November 1887
Addressed to Félix Mackar
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique
Publication Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 62–63
Советская музыка (1970), No. 9, p. 66–67 (Russian translation)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIV (1974), p. 248–249

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
28 Octobre 1887/9 Novembre

Mon cher et excellent ami !

« La Charmeuse » a été représentée pour la premiere fois il y a juste une semaine. Le succès de cette représentation a été bien grand et les ovations très chaleureuses. J'ai bien rempli mon devoir de chef-d'-orchestre. Depuis il y en a eu encore une toujours sous ma direction et pour cause de maladie du chef-d'orchestre Naprawnik je conduirai l'orchestre encore 2 fois. L'éxécution est bonne, surtout l'orchestre et les cœurs ; la mise en scène splendide. Maintenant, mon cher ami, parlons affaires. Depuis deux mois on ne cesse de m'envoyer des invitations de différentes villes d'Allemagne pour venir donner des concerts. J'en ai déjà accepté plusieurs et en accepterai probablement encore quelque-unes. Mes projets sont réglés de la manière suivante. Je pars de Petersbourg dans une semaine. Le 14/26 Novembre grand concert consacré à mes compositions à Moscou. Le 15/27 départ pour Tiflis où j'ai donné ma parole d'honneur de conduire la premiere représentation de « La Charmeuse ». – Cela me dérange, mais je ne puis refuser. De la à la mi-Décembre je pars pour Prague, Berlin, Hambourg, Leipzig, Dresde, etc., etc. Quant aux mois de Mars et d'Avril je les consacre à Paris. Le meilleur serait de prendre dès à présent les mesures necessaires pour avoir la salle ou le Cirque ou nous arrangerons notre, ou même, nos concerts Parisiens. Faites les choses en grand. Je puis décidément risquer de 3 à 4 milles Francs (disons même 5 milles), – car je les aurai, je les ai même maintenant et V[ou]s pouvez y compter. D'ailleurs j'espère que nous obtiendrons un peu de public payant et, qui sait, peut-être ferons nous une recette passablement belle !!!

En Allemagne partout on me paye et même on me paye bien ; mon voyage probablement va me rapporter aussi un peu d'argent. Enfin, mon ami, pourvu que ma santé soit bonne, j'espère que tout ira pour le mieux et que j'arriverai à Paris comblé de lauriers allemands que nous transformerons vite en lauriers Français, qui, comme V[ou]s le savez bien, me sont bien chers.

Ecrivez moi à Moscou, (Neglinnaïa, 10, P. I. Jurgenson) et pendant tous le moi[s] de Novembre et celui de Décembre, adressez Vos lettres à cette même adresse. Elles me seront expédié[e]s tout de suite partout où je serai. Quant faut-il composer le programme du concert? Quels solistes excepté Brandoukoff aurons nous? Marsick me fera-t-il l'honneur de jouer mon concerto de violon? Quelle salle avez V[ou]s en vue? Quel orchestre? Répondez moi sur toutes ces questions.

Je V[ou]s embrasse de tout-cœur. Mille choses à M-me Mackar et à nos amis communs.

Votre dévoué ami
P. Tschaïkovsky

P. S. De grâce ne livrez pas cette lettre à la publicité, comme V[ou]s l'avez fait une fois. Il ne faut pas que les Allemands sachent que je suis français de cœur.

28 October/9 November 1887
Saint Petersburg

My dear and splendid friend!

The Enchantress was performed for the first time exactly a week ago. This performance was a great success, and the ovations were very enthusiastic [1]. I fulfilled my task as the conductor well. Subsequently there was one more performance, again under my direction, and due to the [resident] conductor Nápravník being ill, I shall conduct the orchestra on two more occasions. The quality of the performance is good, especially the orchestra and choruses; the staging is magnificent. Now, my dear friend, let us talk about business matters. For two months now I have been constantly receiving invitations from various cities in Germany asking me to go and give concerts there. I have already accepted several such invitations, and will probably accept a few more. Here is an outline of my plans. I am leaving Petersburg in a week's time. On 14/26 November there is a big concert in Moscow devoted to my compositions [2]. On 15/27 I leave for Tiflis, where I have given my word of honour to conduct the first performance of The Enchantress [3]. That is inconvenient for me, but I cannot refuse. Then, in mid-December, from there I depart for Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, etc., etc [4]. As for March and April, those months I shall devote to Paris [5]. The best thing would be if we could now start taking the necessary measures to secure the concert venue or circus where we can organize our Parisian concert, or even concerts. Do this in a big way. I can definitely risk a sum of between three and four thousand francs (let us even say five thousand), because I will have that sum at my disposition—in fact, I already do and you can count on it. Besides, I am hoping that we will be able to attract some sort of ticket-paying audience, and, who knows, perhaps our takings will be tolerably good!!! [6]

In Germany I am being paid everywhere, and quite well too. My trip will probably also allow me to make a little profit. In short, my friend, as long as my health remains good, I hope that everything will turn out for the best and that I shall arrive in Paris loaded with German laurels that we will quickly turn into French ones, which, as you of course know, are very dear to me.

Write to me in Moscow (10 Neglinnaia Street, P. I. Jurgenson), using that same address during the rest of November and throughout December. Your letters will be forwarded to me immediately wherever I may happen to be. When is it necessary to draw up the concert's programme? Which soloists, apart from Brandukov, will we have at our disposal? Will Marsick do me the honour of playing my Violin Concerto? [7] Which venue have you set your sights on? Reply to all these questions for me, if you would.

I embrace you with all my heart. A thousand kind regards for M[ada]me Mackar [8]} and all our mutual friends.

Your devoted friend,
P. Tchaikovsky

P. S. Please do not divulge the contents of this letter, as you did once [9]. The Germans must not find out that I am a Frenchman at heart.

Notes and References

<references> [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The premiere of The Enchantress took place at the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre on 20 October/1 November 1887, with Tchaikovsky conducting. However, he was deceiving himself about the public's enthusiasm for his new opera, and it was a succès d'estime more than anything else. Tchaikovsky eventually realised this when he conducted the fourth performance on 2/14 November and received no applause when he came out onto the rostrum. As for the critics, they found very little to praise in the opera. See Letter 3399 to Nadezhda von Meck of 13/25 November 1887.
  2. 2.0 2.1 At the second symphonic concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow on 14/26 November 1887 Tchaikovsky would conduct a programme drawn exclusively from his own works and featuring: the fantasia Francesca da Rimini, Kuma's arioso from Act I of The Enchantress (sung by Adelina Skompskaya), the Concert Fantasia (soloist: Sergey Taneyev), the premiere of the Suite No. 4 (Mozartiana), two romances (sung by Skompskaya), and the festival overture The Year 1812. The concert was such a success that it was repeated the following day, with the tickets sold at reduced prices to allow less affluent music-lovers to attend.
  3. 3.0 3.1 In fact Tchaikovsky did not travel to Tiflis in November, and the first performance of The Enchantress there on 14/26 December 1887 was conducted by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. The production in Tiflis ran to six performances, reportedly playing to a full house each time. See Дни и годы П. И. Чайковского. Летопись жизни и творчества (1940), p. 430.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tchaikovsky left Saint Petersburg on 15/27 December 1887 to embark on his first European conducting tour, travelling first to Berlin, although his first concert was in Leipzig on 24 December 1887/5 January 1888.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tchaikovsky's stay in Paris as part of his concert tour would in fact last from 12/24 February to 7/19 March 1888, during which he conducted at three concerts.
  6. 6.0 6.1 As Vladimir Fédorov observes, Colonne gladly put his orchestra and main venue at Tchaikovsky's disposal because he saw the opportunity to make a large profit! See Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 63, n. 7. Thus, Tchaikovsky was able to conduct his own works at two Châtelet concerts, on 21 February/4 March and 28 February/11 March 1888 respectively, and Colonne's orchestra also took part in the musical soirée held in Tchaikovsky's honour at the house of Nicolas and Marie de Benardaky on 16/28 February 1888.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Belgian violinist Martin Pierre Marsick (1848–1924), who had already taken part in various recitals in Paris featuring Tchaikovsky's chamber music, would indeed be the soloist in the first performance in France of the Violin Concerto (though apparently only of the first movement) at the Châtelet concert conducted by Tchaikovsky on 28 February/11 March 1888. See the precise details of the concert in Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 28, note 3.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mackar's wife, Valérie. In 1888, Tchaikovsky would dedicate to her one of the prints made by the Hamburg photographer E. Bieber on 6/18 January 1888. He wrote on it the following inscription: "Madame Valérie Mackar souvenir affectueux" and sketched three bars from the Andante cantabile of his String Quartet No. 1. See Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 94. The portrait in question appears as Photograph No. 60 in our Catalogue of Photographs.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Tchaikovsky may possibly be referring here to Letter 2854 of 14/26 January 1886, with its autobiographical notice, in which he had mentioned his French roots on his mother's side of the family, but that had been written at the explicit request of Mackar and was intended to be divulged to the Parisian press.