Letter 168

Date 18/30 December 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. 29–30)
Publication Переписка М. А. Балакирева и П. И. Чайковского (1868-1891) [1912], p. 51–53
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 194–195
Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 147–148

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Москва. 18 декабря

Мой милый друг!

Вы и приблизительного понятия не можете себе составить о том, до чего я был рад получить Ваше милое письмо; я так боялся Вашего строгого, но правдивого приговора, что с ужасом думал о смелости, с которой взялся писать музыку на Шекспира, раскаивался в этом, и порой на меня находило желание бросить всю вещь в огонь, — но с тех пор, как я прочёл Ваше письмо, всё это прошло, и я несказанно рад, что уже и теперь, когда ещё Вам неизвестны подробности, Вы одобрительно относитесь к посвящённому Вам произведению.

Радуюсь также, что Вы благополучно отделались от последствий Находкиной ярости. Можно ли было ожидать, что этот добродетельный зверь так напакостит своему благодетелю? Я иначе не могу себе объяснить этот странный поступок, как интригой и подкупом. Честная Находка, быть может, не могла устоять против медоточивых речей Зарембы или Фаминцына; кто знает, ей, может быть, обещано было место профессора Петербургской консерватории и лестное знакомство с Алёной? Разумеется, её обманули, и она раскаивается.

Здесь с нетерпением Вас ожидают и многие весьма Вами интересуются; сегодня в одной газете утверждается даже, что Вы дадите несколько концертов. Дела Музыкального общества идут хорошо; на днях давалась Месса Россини, привлёкшая огромную массу публики. 27-го числа будет повторение. Эта Месса никуда не годится; бедность изобретения и скудость фантазии необыкновенная; исполнение было хорошее. Мысль Ваша дать Реквием Моцарта очень хорошая, но каких трудов будет Вам стоить добыть итальянцев! Знаете ли, что Мерелли получает из сбора с наших двух концертов 60 процентов; едва ли у Вас согласятся петь даром. Антон Рубинштейн дал здесь очень хороший концерт, на котором играл так много, что под конец устал и выпустил две пьесы из программы, или предположил, что публика устала. Играл он идеально хорошо. Его фантазия (которую Вы, вероятно, уже слышали) скучновата, но есть два-три хороших места и, между прочим, один необыкновенно курьёзный гармонический ход.

Он мне говорил про колоссальный план устроить в Петербурге, года через два, музыкальный фестиваль из одних русских сочинений; между прочим он сильно рассчитывает на Ваше содействие, и я очень удивляюсь, что он у Вас не был, так как к плану этому он относится очень серьёзно.

С большим сожалением узнал я от Рубинштейна, что у Корсакова продолжают болеть глаза; я боюсь, что это будет иметь на него деморализующее влияние. Напишите мне, пожалуйста, серьёзна ли его болезнь и есть ли надежда, что она пройдёт бесследно?

Увертюру свою я отдал переписать; скоро она будет готова и прислана Вам; с нетерпением ожидаю свидания с Вами в Москве; надеюсь, что Вы не отложите надолго этого намерения; а я в Питере едва ли буду ранее лета.

Прощайте, голубчик; кланяйтесь всем Вашим, Корсакову в особенности.

П. Чайковский

Кашкин и Клименко крепко Вам кланяются.

Был ли у Вас Иванов—технолог?

Moscow. 18 December

My dear friend!

You have no idea how glad I was to receive your nice letter [1]. I was so afraid of your strict, but just verdict that I was horrified to think how bold I had been in undertaking to set Shakespeare to music. Indeed, I regretted having done so, and at times I was seized with the urge to throw this whole thing into the fire. Since reading your letter, however, all this has passed, and I am ineffably glad that already now, even though you are not yet familiar with the details, you look approvingly upon this work which is dedicated to you.

I am also glad that you have recovered all right from the consequences of Nakhodka's rage [2]. Who could have thought that this virtuous beast would play such a dirty trick on its benefactor? I cannot make any sense of this strange behaviour other than by ascribing it to intrigues and bribery. Maybe honest Nakhodka was unable to resist the mellifluous coaxing of Zaremba or Famintsyn [3]. Who knows, perhaps she was promised the post of professor at the Petersburg Conservatory and the flattering opportunity of making the acquaintance of Alyona?![4] She was tricked of course, and now she is sorry for what she has done.

You are being awaited impatiently here, and many people are expressing a great interest in you. One newspaper today even claimed that you would be giving several concerts [5]. Things are going well for the Musical Society. A few days ago a Mass by Rossini was performed, and it drew a huge audience [6]. There will be a repeat performance on the 27th. This Mass is completely useless and shows an extraordinary poverty of invention and dearth of imagination, but the performance was good. Your idea about performing Mozart's "Requiem" is very good, but won't you have enormous difficulties in getting hold of any Italians![7] Did you know that Merelli will get 60 % of the box-office returns from our two concerts?[8] They will hardly agree to sing for free at yours. Anton Rubinstein gave a very good concert here, in which he played so much that towards the end he got tired and left out two of the pieces on the programme, or perhaps he assumed that the audience was tired. His playing was of an ideal quality. His "Fantasia" (which you have probably already heard) is rather boring, though there are two or three fine passages and, among other things, one remarkably curious harmonic sequence[9].

He told me about a colossal plan of his, namely to organize a music festival in Petersburg, some two years hence, which is to feature exclusively Russian works. Among other things, he is counting very much on your collaboration, and I am very surprised that he did not call on you [10], since he really is determined to realize this plan.

I was very sorry to find out from Rubinstein that Korsakov's eyes are still hurting. I am afraid lest this may have a demoralizing effect on him. Please let me know whether his illness is serious, and whether there is any hope that it may pass without leaving any permanent damage?

I have submitted my overture for copying. It will be ready soon and will be dispatched to you. I am impatiently awaiting our meeting in Moscow: I hope you will not defer your intention of coming here too much longer. I myself will hardly be able to come to Piter before the summer [11].

Goodbye, golubchik; give my regards to all your lot, especially to Korsakov

P. Tchaikovsky

Kashkin and Klimenko send you their warm regards.

Did Ivanov the technologist visit you?[12]

Notes and References

  1. Balakirev's letter to Tchaikovsky of 1/13 December 1869, in which he commented on the main themes of the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet which Tchaikovsky had sent him (as sketches in Letter 159 to Balakirev, 17/29 November 1869). Balakirev did make some critical comments, but he praised the love theme enthusiastically and said that he was impatient to see the score of the overture, which he supposed to be Tchaikovsky's best work to date. See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 145–147.
  2. Balakirev had recently been bitten in the hand by his dog, Nakhodka, but in his letter to Tchaikovsky of 1/13 December 1869 he explained that the wound had healed and that he could use his hand to write again.
  3. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Famintsyn (1841–1896), music critic and professor of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. His reactionary views and hostility to contemporary Russian music made him into a frequent target for the irony of both Tchaikovsky and the "Mighty Handful".
  4. i.e. Grand Duchess Yelena Pavlovna, whose first name Tchaikovsky ironically turns into the rustic-sounding Alyona (Алёна). The Grand Duchess had played a significant role in the unjust dismissal of Balakirev earlier that year from the post of conductor of the Russian Musical Society's concerts in Saint Petersburg.
  5. No references to an imminent visit to Moscow by Balakirev have been found in any of the Moscow newspapers which appeared on 18 December 1869 [O.S.] — note in: Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 193.
  6. Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle was performed at an extraordinary RMS concert in Moscow on 14/26 December 1869 under the baton of Nikolay Rubinstein.
  7. In his letter to Tchaikovsky of 1/13 December 1869 Balakirev mentioned that he wanted to perform Mozart's Requiem at a Free Music School concert, with the solo parts to be taken by singers from the Italian Opera Company in Saint Petersburg.
  8. Eugenio Merelli (1825–1882), Italian opera manager, son of the more famous impresario Bartolomeo Merelli (1794–1879). The younger Merelli was in charge of the Italian Opera companies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in the late 1860s and during the 1870s. In his music review articles Tchaikovsky would frequently attack Merelli for his profiteering tactics. Here he seems to be referring to Merelli having granted permission for singers from his company to perform at RMS concerts in Moscow only on condition that he received 60% of the takings.
  9. Anton Rubinstein's Fantasia for piano and orchestra was first performed by the author at his concert on 7/19 December 1869.
  10. In his letter to Tchaikovsky of 1/13 December 1869 Balakirev wrote that Anton Rubinstein had not called on him during his recent stay in Saint Petersburg.
  11. Tchaikovsky stopped briefly in Saint Petersburg from 18/30 May to 21 May/2 June 1870 on his way abroad.
  12. Mikhail Mikhaylovich Ivanov (1849–1927), Russian composer and music critic. After graduating from the Technological Institute in Saint Petersburg (hence Tchaikovsky's designation of him as "the technologist"), Ivanov decided to devote himself to music and studied at the Moscow Conservatory for a year in the harmony class of Tchaikovsky.