Letter 134

Date 13/25 March 1869
Addressed to Mily Balakirev
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 11, л. 13–14)
Publication Переписка М. А. Балакирева и П. И. Чайковского (1868-1891) [1912], p. 24–26.
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 158–159
Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 126–127

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
13 марта 1869 г[ода]

Добрейший Милий Алексеевич!

Весьма и весьма радуюсь как тому, что Вы принимаете моё посвящение, так и тому, что «Фатум» будет исполнен. Когда Вы мне возвратите его, я велю снять копию, сделать надпись и пришлю Вам, а Вас попрошу в свободную минуточку черкнуть мне слова два о том, имеет ли эта вещь какие-нибудь достоинства. Касательно исполнения его вот ещё одна просьба: в начале, после первого ff, там есть ход имитаций в деревянных инструментах:

0134 ex1.jpg

Этот ход, некрасивый по музыке и по инструментовке, мы в Москве пропускали и прямо начинали после ff педаль в контрабасах и виолончелах:

0134 ex2.jpg

Не потрудитесь ли и Вы сделать точно так же.

Итак, ещё и ещё благодарю Вас за дорогое для меня внимание Ваше.

Брат мой писал мне, что в последнем концерте шёл «Антар» Корсакова и что он имел большой успех. Искренне радуюсь этому и попрошу Вас передать автору мои поздравления. Отчего он так долго не присылает «Садко»; Юргенсон начинает бояться, что «Садко», пожалуй, попадёт в море его соотечественника Иогансена. Доор не решается ехать к 17 в Петербург, отговариваясь тем, что он не может сыграть давно уже не игранный им концерт Бетховена без приготовления, а Коссман участвует в воскресенье, 16 в квартетном утре.

На святой у нас здесь будет Concert-monstre в память Берлиоза; будет исполнен его «Реквием»; отчасти это обстоятельство, а отчасти и плохое состояние финансов заставляет меня остаться в Москве. Но не приедете ли Вы послушать «Реквием»; это было бы весьма приятно для меня; кстати, Вы бы поругали меня за песни, а мне очень интересно знать, за какие именно. Теперь примусь за Ваши песни и нещадно буду Вас обкрадывать.

Прощайте, голубчик. Поклонитесь от меня Корсакову.

П. Чайковский

Симфонию Бородина Вам вышлют. Очень жаль, что не придётся её слышать, для последнего концерта у нас готовят 9 симф[онию].

13 March 1869

I am extremely glad over your acceptance of my dedication, as well as over the fact that "Fatum" is to be performed [1]. When you return the score to me I will order a copy to be made, with an inscription, and I will send this to you. If you have a minute to spare, I would kindly ask you to dash off a few words as to whether in your opinion this piece has any merits [2]. Regarding its performance, here is another request I would like to put to you: at the start, after the first "ff", there is a sequence of imitations in the woodwind instruments:

0134 ex1.jpg

In Moscow we left out this sequence, which is ugly in terms of the music and the instrumentation, and after the "ff" started directly with the pedal point in the double basses and cellos [3]:

0134 ex2.jpg

Would you be so kind as to do exactly the same.

Anyway, I thank you yet again for your attention, which is so dear to me.

My brother wrote to me that at the last concert Korsakov's "Antar" was played, and that it had a great success [4]. I am sincerely delighted by this and kindly ask you to pass on my congratulations to the author. Why is he taking such a long time to send "Sadko"? Jurgenson is starting to fear that "Sadko" may well end up in the sea of his compatriot Johansen [5]. Door cannot make up his mind to come to Petersburg for the [concert on the] 17th [of March]. His excuse is that without proper preparation he cannot play Beethoven's concerto, which he hasn't played for a long time. As for Cossmann, he is taking part in a chamber music matinee on Sunday the 16th [6].

During Holy Week we will be having a "concert monstre" [7] here in memory of Berlioz: his "Requiem" is to be performed. It is partly this circumstance, and partly the poor state of my finances, which forces me to stay in Moscow. But could you not come here to listen to the "Requiem"? This would be most agreeable for me. By the way, you could then also scold me for the songs: I am very interested to know for which ones exactly. Now I shall set about your songs and I will be robbing you mercilessly [8].

Goodbye, golubchik. Send my regards to Korsakov.

P. Tchaikovsky

Borodin's symphony will be sent to you. It is a great pity that I won't get to hear it. For the last concert here they are preparing [Beethoven's] Ninth Symphony [9].

Notes and References

  1. In Letter 132 to Balakirev, written between 16/28 February and 22 February/6 March 1869, Tchaikovsky had expressed his wish to dedicate the symphonic fantasia Fatum to his colleague. In his reply of 11/23 March 1869 Balakirev thanked Tchaikovsky for this dedication and promised that Fatum would be performed under his baton at the next Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg. See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 125–126.
  2. Balakirev duly complied with this request in his letter to Tchaikovsky of 18/30 March–19/31 March 1869, which contained several criticisms regarding the themes and form of Fatum, although at the same time he insisted that he was delighted to be the dedicatee of this work, as he saw in this a token of Tchaikovsky's friendship. See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 127–130.
  3. Tchaikovsky is referring to the first performance of Fatum, which took place in Moscow on 15/27 February 1869 under the baton of Nikolay Rubinstein.
  4. In a letter of 10/22 March 1869 Anatoly Tchaikovsky informed his brother about the first performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Antar (initially entitled a symphony) at a Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg.
  5. Tchaikovsky is referring to the publication of Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic tableau Sadko, which Jurgenson was keen to undertake. Avgust Johansen (1829–1875) was an important music publisher in Saint Petersburg.
  6. In his letter to Tchaikovsky of 11/23 March 1869 Balakirev had mentioned that he had heard from Nikolay Rubinstein that the pianist Anton Door and the cellist Bernhard Cossmann (1822–1910), who were both then professors at the Moscow Conservatory, had expressed an interest in coming to Saint Petersburg to take part in a concert. Balakirev had asked Tchaikovsky to find out whether they could come to Saint Petersburg for the next RMS concert on Monday, 17/29 March 1869, the rehearsals for which were to take place on Saturday and Sunday. Balakirev also said that he wanted Door to play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E♭ major, Op. 73. See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 125–126.
  7. A "monster concert", i.e. a concert with particularly large orchestral and choral forces like those which Berlioz himself often conducted.
  8. At the end of this paragraph Tchaikovsky is referring to his collection of Fifty Russian Folksongs, harmonized and arranged for piano duet. Tchaikovsky had obtained Balakirev's permission to use 25 songs from his Collection of Russian Folksongs (published by Johansen, Saint Petersburg, 1866). In his letter of 15/27 January 1869, Balakirev had also said that Tchaikovsky could either adopt his harmonizations or re-harmonize these songs at his own discretion. In his later letter of 11/23 March 1869, Balakirev had asked Tchaikovsky whether he would be coming to Saint Petersburg during Easter, adding: "I would like to scold you personally for some of your arrangements of the songs". Book 1 of Tchaikovsky's collection (with the first 25 songs, which were not taken from Balakirev's anthology) had been issued by Jurgenson in January or February 1869, and it is these which Balakirev is referring to here. See Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 126.
  9. Balakirev had hoped that Borodin's Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major would be performed at the forthcoming Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow on 21 March/2 April 1869 under the baton of Nikolay Rubinstein. Instead of Borodin's symphony, however, Beethoven's Choral Symphony was performed at that concert, and it would not be until March 1887 that Borodin's First Symphony received its first performance in Moscow, under the baton of Max Erdmannsdörfer. In his letter of 11/23 March 1869, Balakirev asked Tchaikovsky to request Rubinstein to return the score of Borodin's symphony if it could not be performed in Moscow during the current season, since he wanted to conduct it himself one more time in Saint Petersburg. Many years later, on 23 January/4 February 1893, Tchaikovsky would himself conduct Borodin's First Symphony at an RMS concert in Odessa.