Difference between revisions of "Letter 969"

m (Text replacement - "Ради бога" to "Ради Бога")
 
Line 40: Line 40:
 
<ref name="note6">Tchaikovsky neither needs to state the full title of this work, nor even its composer, to identify it confidently to [[Modest]]. Most people in those times with a reasonable interest in music would know that "Robert" meant ''Robert le diable'', the phenomenally successful grand opera (premiered in 1831 at the [[Paris]] Opéra) that had propelled its composer, [[Meyerbeer]], to international fame. Tchaikovsky admired it, and [[Meyerbeer]]'s next two grand operas, ''Les Huguenots'' and ''Le prophète'' (premiered respectively in 1836 and 1849) but balked at his fourth, and final, work in this genre, ''L'africaine'' (unfinished at his death in 1864, completed by F.-J. Fétis and premiered in 1865), believing it to exemplify the worst excesses of grand opera (see [[Letter 716]], to [[Sergey Taneyev]], 2/14 January 1878). Despite such mixed feelings, Tchaikovsky had already explored the grand opera format in his fairly recent ''The Oprichnik'' (1870-72) and he would certainly be pondering whether or not his imminent work, on Joan of Arc, should be configured as grand opera. While in [[Vienna]] he buys a score of [[Verdi]]'s treatment of this subject, the early and largely immature ''Giovanna d'Arco''—which, one should emphasize, is not a grand opera but, rather, a short ''dramma lirico'' (premiered 1845, La Scala, [[Milan]]). He presently tells [[Nadezhda von Meck]] his assessment of it: it is "utterly bad" (see [[Letter 973]], 21 November/3 December 1878). Room for improvement, therefore. Fate, in which Tchaikovsky so strongly believed, could well have seemed to be showing him the path to achieving that. [[Verdi]]'s ''Giovanna'' is in many ways an embryonic version of a grand opera. Though it contains only three lead singers (the heroine, her father and the Dauphin) instead of the larger complement that would characteristically convey a full-length opera, it nevertheless shows much influence of ''Robert le diable''—a production of which, circumstantially (or providentially?) was on in [[Vienna]] during Tchaikovsky's visit, and which he attended. Julian Budden cites ''Giovanna d'Arco''{{'}}s "invisible demons and angels, its storms and its instrumental trickery" as rooted in [[Meyerbeer]]'s procedures in that work; see ''The Operas of Verdi'', vol. 1, ''From Oberto to Rigoletto'' (London, 1973), p. 207. Tchaikovsky would have been unlikely to miss such resemblances, and if indeed a Meyerbeerian framework for his own forthcoming opera was increasingly appealing to him, it might explain the really puzzling matter in this letter to [[Modest]]. That is, the decision to waive the opportunity of seeing [[Verdi]]'s ''Les vêpres siciliennes''. Notwithstanding occasional criticisms, Tchaikovsky knew perfectly well that [[Verdi]] was a great opera composer. But in that particular work he had not merely been influenced by [[Meyerbeer]], he had attempted to challenge his eminence. Quite unlike ''Giovanna d'Arco'', ''Les vêpres siciliennes'' is opera writ large—full scale grand opera indeed, but ultimately to no avail. Tchaikovsky would certainly have known that the work had not generally established itself (see note 1, above). Perhaps it was an uncomfortable reminder of potential failure if he himself was about to explore, even more decisively than previously, a Meyerbeerian path?</ref>
 
<ref name="note6">Tchaikovsky neither needs to state the full title of this work, nor even its composer, to identify it confidently to [[Modest]]. Most people in those times with a reasonable interest in music would know that "Robert" meant ''Robert le diable'', the phenomenally successful grand opera (premiered in 1831 at the [[Paris]] Opéra) that had propelled its composer, [[Meyerbeer]], to international fame. Tchaikovsky admired it, and [[Meyerbeer]]'s next two grand operas, ''Les Huguenots'' and ''Le prophète'' (premiered respectively in 1836 and 1849) but balked at his fourth, and final, work in this genre, ''L'africaine'' (unfinished at his death in 1864, completed by F.-J. Fétis and premiered in 1865), believing it to exemplify the worst excesses of grand opera (see [[Letter 716]], to [[Sergey Taneyev]], 2/14 January 1878). Despite such mixed feelings, Tchaikovsky had already explored the grand opera format in his fairly recent ''The Oprichnik'' (1870-72) and he would certainly be pondering whether or not his imminent work, on Joan of Arc, should be configured as grand opera. While in [[Vienna]] he buys a score of [[Verdi]]'s treatment of this subject, the early and largely immature ''Giovanna d'Arco''—which, one should emphasize, is not a grand opera but, rather, a short ''dramma lirico'' (premiered 1845, La Scala, [[Milan]]). He presently tells [[Nadezhda von Meck]] his assessment of it: it is "utterly bad" (see [[Letter 973]], 21 November/3 December 1878). Room for improvement, therefore. Fate, in which Tchaikovsky so strongly believed, could well have seemed to be showing him the path to achieving that. [[Verdi]]'s ''Giovanna'' is in many ways an embryonic version of a grand opera. Though it contains only three lead singers (the heroine, her father and the Dauphin) instead of the larger complement that would characteristically convey a full-length opera, it nevertheless shows much influence of ''Robert le diable''—a production of which, circumstantially (or providentially?) was on in [[Vienna]] during Tchaikovsky's visit, and which he attended. Julian Budden cites ''Giovanna d'Arco''{{'}}s "invisible demons and angels, its storms and its instrumental trickery" as rooted in [[Meyerbeer]]'s procedures in that work; see ''The Operas of Verdi'', vol. 1, ''From Oberto to Rigoletto'' (London, 1973), p. 207. Tchaikovsky would have been unlikely to miss such resemblances, and if indeed a Meyerbeerian framework for his own forthcoming opera was increasingly appealing to him, it might explain the really puzzling matter in this letter to [[Modest]]. That is, the decision to waive the opportunity of seeing [[Verdi]]'s ''Les vêpres siciliennes''. Notwithstanding occasional criticisms, Tchaikovsky knew perfectly well that [[Verdi]] was a great opera composer. But in that particular work he had not merely been influenced by [[Meyerbeer]], he had attempted to challenge his eminence. Quite unlike ''Giovanna d'Arco'', ''Les vêpres siciliennes'' is opera writ large—full scale grand opera indeed, but ultimately to no avail. Tchaikovsky would certainly have known that the work had not generally established itself (see note 1, above). Perhaps it was an uncomfortable reminder of potential failure if he himself was about to explore, even more decisively than previously, a Meyerbeerian path?</ref>
 
<ref name="note7">i.e. [[Aleksey Sofronov]] (Alyosha).</ref>
 
<ref name="note7">i.e. [[Aleksey Sofronov]] (Alyosha).</ref>
 +
</references>
 
{{DEFAULTSORT:Letter 0969}}
 
{{DEFAULTSORT:Letter 0969}}

Latest revision as of 08:11, 12 July 2019

Date 18/30 November 1878
Addressed to Modest Tchaikovsky
Where written Vienna
Language Russian
Autograph Location Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve (a3, No. 1513)
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 218 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 459–460 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 180–181 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том VII (1962), p. 460–461
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 177–178 (English translation; abridged)

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Henry Zajaczkowski
Вена 18/30 ноября 1878.

Фу, какой колоссальный лист! Пишу на нем поневоле, ибо Алёша ушел и без него своей бумаги не достану. Если весь не испишу, то не сердись. Я в Вене, в том самом «Goldenes Lamm», который весь пропитан воспоминаниями о тебе и Толе. Может быть, поэтому мне так и смертельно грустно, что все здесь говорит о Вас, даже хозяин и лакеи все про обоих Вас расспрашивают,—а Вас нет. Впрочем, как это ни странно, а я должен засвидетельствовать факт, что с самого выезда из Каменки мне смертельно грустно. Никогда так Каменка и каменское общество не было мне по нутру, как в этот раз. Давно я не чувствовал себя так абсолютно хорошо (т. е. нравственно, ибо физически мне нездоровилось), как в эти полторы недели. Кажется, я могу безошибочно теперь уже сказать, что только эта форма жизни, т. е. деревенская, но в обществе близких и милых людей, может вполне удовлетворить меня. По традициям молодости заграница имеет ещё в глазах моих какой-то неопределенный престиж,—но каждый раз, как ощущение заграничности в первую минуту удовлетворено, она теряет для меня прелесть и начинает наводить тоску. Но такой тоски, как нынче, я ещё никогда не испытывал, если принять в соображение, что никаких причин для грусти нет, так как обстоятельства жизни вполне хороши и я не имею никаких причин жаловаться. Впереди мне предстоит Венеция, где я пробуду день, и Флоренция, где Н[адежда] Ф[иларетовна] приготовила мне квартиру, и, следовательно, можно себе представить, до чего обстановка моя будет хороша. Засим я совершенно свободен ехать куда угодно и оставаться за границей сколько угодно. Следовательно, я вполне свободный и счастливый человек. Все это я превосходно сознаю, и тем не менее мне грустно до слез. Впрочем, и то сказать, Вена всегда мне была противна.

Дорогой я был чистым мучеником. Во-первых, у меня болел зуб и щека адски распухла. Во-вторых, я все время чувствовал невероятное утомление и болезненное нетерпение поскорей приехать. Кажется, мне просто надоело ездить. Уж слишком много времени я трачу на езду. Мы приехали вчера к обеду. Обед так же вкусен, как и прежде. Это положительно вкуснейший из всех известных мне обедов. Затем, так как в опере шли «Сицилийские вечерни», которые мне нимало не интересны, я пошел с Алешей в цирк Ренца. Плохая труппа, скучная программа, и ни одного милого лица между артистами. Спал хорошо, но не очень. Сегодня ходил с Алешей по городу и кое-что купил, причём, конечно, Ленька бесил меня своей медлительностью в выборе вещей. Сделавши огромную прогулку, мы пришли домой и обедали. Теперь я сел за письмо это и чувствую, что беседа с милым моим Модей очень утешила и облегчила мою неопределенную грусть. Впрочем, я напрасно называю её неопределенной. Мне грустно, что ни от Толи, ни от тебя я не имею никаких известий. Надеюсь во Флоренции найти письма. Ради Бога, пиши. Не забудь адреса: Florence, Viale dei Colli, Restaurant Bonciani. Я остановлюсь в Венеции, чтобы отдохнуть и проверить своё прошлогоднее впечатление.

Алёша положительно идеален. Ласков, нежен, весел. Но, увы! его одного мне мало. Нужно бы ещё хотя одного из Вас двух, и тогда все было бы хорошо. Помнишь встречу в Милане? Ай, ай, ай, как это было весело! Целую крепко тебя, Толю, Колю. Алине Ивановне поклон. Толе напишу из Венеции.

Твой П. Чайковский

Сегодня еду в оперу, дают «Роберта», завтра в 1 пополудни еду.

Vienna 18/30 November 1878.

Gosh, what a colossal sheet of paper! I'm having to write on it as Alyosha has gone out and I can't get hold of my own paper without him. If I don't cover the whole of it with writing, don't be cross. I'm in Vienna, in that same "Golden Lamb" where everything exudes memories of you and Tolya. Perhaps it's on account of that that I'm so terribly sad, that everything here communicates something of you, even the hotelier and the servants are all asking about you both—but you aren't here. But, however odd it seems, I must testify to the fact that from the very moment of my departure from Kamenka I've been terribly sad. Never have my predispositions been so smoothed over by Kamenka and the people there as on this occasion. It's been a long while since I've felt such absolute well-being (i.e. in the moral sense, for I felt unwell in physical terms) as in those one-and-a-half weeks. It seems I can already dependably say now that only that lifestyle that is the rural kind, and that is in the company of those who are one's own dear blood, may fully satisfy me. In line with youthful traditions, foreign lands still hold some vague prestige in my eyes—but every time I give in to the first moment's thrill of the foreignlandishness it loses its fascination for me and starts to instil some sadness. But today's sadness is such as I have never yet experienced, if one takes into consideration that there are no reasons whatsoever for any melancholy, as the circumstances of my life are entirely good and I have no reasons whatsoever to complain. Before me is the coming prospect of Venice, where I'll stay for a day, and Florence, where Nadezhda Filaretovna has provided me an apartment, and therefore I can picture how good my situation will be. Thereafter I'm absolutely at liberty to go wherever I like and stay abroad as much as I like. Therefore, I am an entirely free and happy man. I recognise all that beyond any question but none the less I am sad to the point of tears. However, I should add I've never liked Vienna.

On the way here I've been quite the martyr. First, I had toothache and my cheek became hellishly swollen. Secondly, I constantly felt unbelievably tired and morbidly impatient to arrive as soon as possible. It seems I'm simply fed up of the travel. I use up far too much time travelling. We arrived yesterday by dinner-time. The dinner was just as tasty as previously. It is absolutely the tastiest of all the dinners I've experienced. After that, as "The Sicilian Vespers" [1], which I have no interest in whatsoever, was on at the opera house, Alyosha and I went off to Renz's Circus [2]. A poor troupe, a dull programme, and not even one pleasing face among the artistes. I slept well, but not for long. Today I went around town with Alyosha and did a bit of shopping, while of course, Lazyboy [3] put me in a huff with how slow he was in making his choice of items. After an enormously long stroll, we returned home and had dinner. I've now settled into writing this letter and feel that some discourse with my dear Modya has greatly eased and lightened my vague sadness. However, I'm mistaken in calling it vague. I'm saddened that neither from Tolya nor from you have I had any news whatever. I'm hoping to find letters in Florence. For God's sake, write. Don't forget the address: Florence, Viale dei Colli, Restaurant Bonciani. I shall stop off in Venice so as to rest and check up on my impression of last year [4].

Alyosha is absolutely perfect. Affectionate, tender, cheerful. But alas! He alone is not enough for me. One of you two [5] is still needed and then everything would be fine. Remember when we met in Milan? Oh, oh, oh, how jolly that was![6] I firmly kiss you, Tolya, Kolya. My regards to Alina Ivanovna. I'll write to Tolya from Venice.

Yours P. Tchaikovsky

Today I'm going to the opera, they're putting on "Robert" [7], tomorrow at 1 pm I'm leaving.

Notes and References

  1. In its more than two-decade history up to the time of Tchaikovsky's present comments, Verdi's Les vêpres siciliennes had never fully caught the public imagination, nor established itself in the international repertoire. Despite its many outstanding qualities the work, originally conceived as a grand opera, premiered at the Paris Opéra in 1855, then recast, for both political and pragmatic reasons, as shortened versions in Italian, had had a very mixed reception. Regarding Tchaikovsky's lack of desire to see this opera, see note 7 below.
  2. The initial flourishing of the famous Renz circus dynasty was very contemporary with Tchaikovsky's own life. Ernst Jakob Renz founded the enterprise in Berlin in 1842, two years after the composer's birth, and his son Franz closed it in 1897, four years after Tchaikovsky died.
  3. i.e. Aleksey Sofronov (Alyosha).
  4. However, as it turns out, Tchaikovsky presently decides to bypass Venice (where, the previous year, he had done work orchestrating Yevgeny Onegin and the Symphony No. 4; so, some reminiscences might have been interesting). He went instead straight to Florence (see Letter 970 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 November/3 December 1878).
  5. i.e. either Modest or (his twin) Anatoly.
  6. Tchaikovsky's comment concerns a happy reunion that vitiated a crisis. The composer had been staying in San Remo, eleven months earlier, in the final stages of work on his Symphony No. 4, when Modest and Kolya Konradi found themselves stranded in Milan, en route to meet him. They had been unable to exchange Russian currency for Italian. As Tchaikovsky recounts to Anatoly on the very same day that he completed the orchestration of his symphony (see Letter 709, 26 December 1877/7 January 1878), he has decided he will travel the following morning to them with the necessary money, rather than mail it. When he was duly met by Modest's embrace, after a twelve-hour journey to Milan, in the evening on 27 December 1877/8 January 1878 (as related in Letter 710, to Anatoly, penned the following day), it must have been a 'jolly' time indeed.
  7. Tchaikovsky neither needs to state the full title of this work, nor even its composer, to identify it confidently to Modest. Most people in those times with a reasonable interest in music would know that "Robert" meant Robert le diable, the phenomenally successful grand opera (premiered in 1831 at the Paris Opéra) that had propelled its composer, Meyerbeer, to international fame. Tchaikovsky admired it, and Meyerbeer's next two grand operas, Les Huguenots and Le prophète (premiered respectively in 1836 and 1849) but balked at his fourth, and final, work in this genre, L'africaine (unfinished at his death in 1864, completed by F.-J. Fétis and premiered in 1865), believing it to exemplify the worst excesses of grand opera (see Letter 716, to Sergey Taneyev, 2/14 January 1878). Despite such mixed feelings, Tchaikovsky had already explored the grand opera format in his fairly recent The Oprichnik (1870-72) and he would certainly be pondering whether or not his imminent work, on Joan of Arc, should be configured as grand opera. While in Vienna he buys a score of Verdi's treatment of this subject, the early and largely immature Giovanna d'Arco—which, one should emphasize, is not a grand opera but, rather, a short dramma lirico (premiered 1845, La Scala, Milan). He presently tells Nadezhda von Meck his assessment of it: it is "utterly bad" (see Letter 973, 21 November/3 December 1878). Room for improvement, therefore. Fate, in which Tchaikovsky so strongly believed, could well have seemed to be showing him the path to achieving that. Verdi's Giovanna is in many ways an embryonic version of a grand opera. Though it contains only three lead singers (the heroine, her father and the Dauphin) instead of the larger complement that would characteristically convey a full-length opera, it nevertheless shows much influence of Robert le diable—a production of which, circumstantially (or providentially?) was on in Vienna during Tchaikovsky's visit, and which he attended. Julian Budden cites Giovanna d'Arco's "invisible demons and angels, its storms and its instrumental trickery" as rooted in Meyerbeer's procedures in that work; see The Operas of Verdi, vol. 1, From Oberto to Rigoletto (London, 1973), p. 207. Tchaikovsky would have been unlikely to miss such resemblances, and if indeed a Meyerbeerian framework for his own forthcoming opera was increasingly appealing to him, it might explain the really puzzling matter in this letter to Modest. That is, the decision to waive the opportunity of seeing Verdi's Les vêpres siciliennes. Notwithstanding occasional criticisms, Tchaikovsky knew perfectly well that Verdi was a great opera composer. But in that particular work he had not merely been influenced by Meyerbeer, he had attempted to challenge his eminence. Quite unlike Giovanna d'Arco, Les vêpres siciliennes is opera writ large—full scale grand opera indeed, but ultimately to no avail. Tchaikovsky would certainly have known that the work had not generally established itself (see note 1, above). Perhaps it was an uncomfortable reminder of potential failure if he himself was about to explore, even more decisively than previously, a Meyerbeerian path?