Letter 77

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Date 6/18 January 1866
Addressed to Anatoly Tchaikovsky and Modest Tchaikovsky
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location unknown
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 221
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 72
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 20–21
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 90
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 19 (English translation)
Notes Manuscript copy in Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve

Text and Translation

Based on a handwritten copy in the Klin House-Museum Archive, which may contain differences in formatting and content from Tchaikovsky's original letter.

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
6 января
3 ½ ч[асов] пополудни

Милые мои братья! Путешествие моё совершилось хотя грустно, но благополучно; я всё думал о вас, и меня всё мучила мысль, что я в последнее время надоедал Вам своей хандрой, которою я страдал очень сильно. Но не сомневайтесь никогда в моей любви, хотя бы она внешним образом и совсем не высказывалась. Остановился в гостинице Кокорева; был у Рубинштейна и уже успел познакомиться с двумя директорами Музыкального общества, по-видимому порядочными [***] Рубинштейн так настоятельно просил меня переехать к нему, что я должен был обещаться, и завтра переезжаю. Итак адресуйте: на Моховую в д[ом] Воейковой в кв[артиры] Н. Г. Рубинштейна. Горло моё болит до сих пор. Между разными бумагами у меня остался на шкалике тот перевод, что я делал летом; отвезите его вместе с партитурами в консерваторию для передачи Рубинштейну, которому я обещал доставить его ещё перед отъездом.

Целую Вас крепко, не разлюбите меня! Поклоны посылаю всем.

Пишите. Скоро опять буду писать.

П. Чайковский

Я сейчас написал Папаше; напишите и Вы.

6 January
3:30 p.m.

My dear brothers! My journey was a sad affair, but it did go well. I kept thinking about you, and I was tormented constantly by the thought that I have been boring you lately with my depressions — something I have been suffering from very much. However, never doubt my love for you, even if it should not manifest itself externally at all. I have put up at the Kokorev Hotel. I have called on Rubinstein and have already managed to make the acquaintance of two directors of the Musical Society who are evidently real [***]. Rubinstein asked me so emphatically to move to his place that I had to promise that I would, and tomorrow in fact I am moving in there [1]. And so use this address: Mokhovaya Street, Voeykovaia's house, N. G. Rubinstein's apartment. My throat is still aching. Among various papers, I left behind on the top of my wardrobe the translation I did in the summer: take it to the Conservatory together with the scores and ask that it be handed over to [Anton] Rubinstein, to whom I had in fact promised to deliver it before my departure [2].

I kiss you warmly — don't stop loving me! I send regards for everyone.

Do write. I shall myself write to you again soon.

P. Tchaikovsky

I've just written to Papasha [3]. You should write to him too.

Notes and References

  1. As Vladimir Zhdanov observed in a note in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 665, this letter marks the beginning of a new period in Tchaikovsky's life. After his graduation exams at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, which came to a close on 31 December 1865/12 January 1866, Tchaikovsky arrived in Moscow on 5/17 January 1866 at Nikolay Rubinstein's invitation to take up a job as teacher of musical theory in the classes of the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society (as the Moscow Conservatory was referred to before it was officially inaugurated in September that year). Nikolay Rubinstein invited him to share his apartment. Tchaikovsky's salary was fixed at 50 rubles a month. It is worth citing two letters sent to the composer at the outset of his "Moscow period" by two people close to him — his father and his friend Herman Laroche. Ilya Tchaikovsky wrote to his son on 30 December 1865/11 January 1866, in reply to a letter from him which has not survived: "My dear Petya! Thank you for your nice letter, but I must say, my dear fellow, that my heart is aching on your account. I mean, look — you've now, thank God, completed your musical education as you so wanted, and what's going to come out of it for you? You say that you've been offered a post as a teacher. Well, that just means they'll call you a professor of music theory and give you a miserable salary! Is that what you deserve, is that what you've been striving for? Your bright little head, your wonderful education, your excellent character — is that what they deserve? As a father, it's possible I'm being partial, but go ahead and ask all and sundry of your friends and acquaintances if they think you have a bright little head, i.e. if you're intelligent, if you've really had a wonderful education, and what your character is like. I'm sure they will all unanimously confirm my words. You aren't ambitious — that's fine by me, but that's not the point. What I'm thinking about is your merits and the work you're going to do, and, most importantly, what you'll be paid for it. Your passion for music is praiseworthy, but, my dear friend, it is a slippery path: the reward for a work of genius always comes a long, long time afterwards. Just look at Serov, that poor musician of genius. For all the passion he has been working with, all that he has managed to gain are silver hairs, not silver. He worked for fourteen years on Judith, and the same on Rogneda, and what has he earned from them? Glory, rated at 1,500 rubles a year, while he's alive — that's barely just enough to live on! I mean, in our country it's only Italians like Verdi who can command fees of 30,000 rubles for their works. Glinka died in poverty, and all our other talents aren't valued highly either. Those who know your [piano] playing and your other musical aptitudes will appreciate you even without Rubinstein's approbation. Just spit upon them and take up state service again. I have no sympathy for either the administrative or fiscal offices. In the past these were always full of scoundrels. Perhaps nowadays they have better educated people and it is acceptable for an honest person to work for them, but still I would advise you to stick to the judicial system: the salaries there may not be big, but there are more honest people and the atmosphere is more free-and-easy. Anyway, you're wise enough to decide for yourself. I just want to see you happy, healthy, and satisfied. I kiss your little eyes and all of you from top to toe". Laroche wrote to his friend on 11/23 January, when Tchaikovsky was already in Moscow: "You are the greatest talent in contemporary Russian music. You are more powerful and original than Balakirev, more elevated, more creative than Serov, infinitely better educated than Rimsky-Korsakov. I see in you the greatest, or rather, the only hope of our musical future. You know that I don't flatter. I never hesitated to say that your The Romans at the Coliseum is a wretched banality, and that The Storm is a museum of anti-musical curiosities. However, everything that you have done — not excluding the magnificent Characteristic Dances and Scenes from Boris Godunov — I regard as the work of a student, as preparatory and experimental work so to speak. Your 'creations' will perhaps not commence until after five years, but these mature, classical works will surpass everything coming after Glinka. I shall sum up all that I have said: it is not for what you have already written that I love you so strongly, but for what you are capable of writing, given the power and vivacity of your talent. The samples you have given so far are just so many solemn promises to surpass your compatriots".
  2. Tchaikovsky's translation of François Auguste Gevaert's Handbook for Instrumentation, which would be published by Jurgenson later in 1866.
  3. This letter to Ilya Tchaikovsky has not survived: it was probably a reply to the letter quoted in full in Note 1 above.