Letter 1924

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 1/13 January 1882
Addressed to Adolph Brodsky
Where written Rome
Language Russian
Autograph Location Manchester (England): Royal Northern College of Music, The Library
Publication The Listener (19 April 1962), p. 683–684 (English translation)
Советская культура (11 August 1962), p. 4
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XI (1966), p. 15–16
Воспоминания о русском доме (2006), p. 106–107

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Рим, 1/13 января 1882

Милый друг!

Тысячу раз благодарю Вас за милейшее письмо Ваше. Очень радуюсь, что могу написать непосредственно Вам, а то, за незнанием Вашего адреса, мне пришлось благодарить Вас через Куперника и Юргенсона. Последнему я написал тотчас после прочтения случайно попавшегося мне № "Neue Freie Presse", где Ганслик весьма остроумно называет мою музыку «вонючей». Только прочтя этот отзыв наиболее авторитетного венского критика, я оценил всю безграничность гражданского мужества, которое Вы выказали, появившись перед венской публикой с моим концертом. Меня это удивляет и трогает в высшей степени. Когда-нибудь, при свидании, я Вам подробно расскажу, как по поводу этого несчастного концерта выказали себя с довольно неблаговидной стороны некоторые так называемые друзья мои... Я очень философски привык относиться к неуспеху или совершенному игнорированию моих произведений, но сильно страдаю душой, когда люди, которых я в воображении своём снабдил всевозможными добродетелями, оказываются совсем не тем, что я думал. В настоящем случае было чем огорчиться. Но зато Ваша симпатия к моему концерту, неоценённая заслуга, которую Вы оказали мне, поборов все препятствия и исполнив его, — сторицей вознаграждают меня за несколько грустных минут разочарования...

Я сейчас же напишу Colonn'у, с которым знаком только по письмам, и буду просить его оказать Вам всевозможное внимание, но, простите, голубчик, умолчу о том, что Вы именно мой концерт будете играть. Не знаю, удастся ли попасть в Карлсруэ, но надеюсь, что Вы поверите мне, если я скажу Вам, что страстно бы желал этого. Попрошу Вас в своё время известить меня точным образом о дне, в который Вы будете играть. Быть может, удастся приехать. Крепко-крепко жму Вашу руку, милый друг; примите самое искреннее и тёплое спасибо за Вашу симпатию к моим сочинениям. Я очень, очень ценю её!!!

Искренно любящий и уважающий Вас,

П. Чайковский

Rome, 1/13 January 1882

Dear friend!

I thank you a thousand times for your ever so nice letter [1]. I am very glad that I can write to you directly, because before, not knowing your address, I had to thank you through Kupernik and Jurgenson [2]. I wrote to the latter immediately after reading an issue of the "Neue Freie Presse" which had fallen into my hands by chance, and in which Hanslick most wittily calls my music "stinking" [3]. It was only after reading this review by the most authoritative critic in Vienna that I appreciated all the immeasurableness of the civil courage which you demonstrated in appearing before the Viennese public with my concerto. This amazes and touches me to the utmost. Some day, when we meet, I shall tell you in detail how in connection with this ill-fated concerto certain so-called friends of mine showed themselves in a rather unfavourable light... [4] I have very philosophically become accustomed to the failure of my works or to their being utterly ignored, but it causes me great spiritual suffering when people whom in my imagination I had endowed with all kinds of virtues turn out to be not at all as I had thought. In the present case I had good reason to feel upset. But on the other hand, your sympathy for my concerto, the inestimable service which you have rendered me in overcoming all obstacles and performing it—all this compensates me a hundredfold for various sad moments of disillusionment.

I shall this very minute write to Colonne, with whom I am acquainted only by correspondence, and will ask him to show you every possible attention, though—forgive me, golubchik—I won't mention that it is precisely my concerto which you are going to play [5]. I don't know whether I shall be able to make it to Karlsruhe, but I hope you will believe me when I tell you that this is something I passionately desire. May I ask you to notify me in due course about the exact day on which you will be performing? Perhaps I will be able to come [6]. I shake your hand very, very warmly, dear friend. Please accept my most sincere and cordial thanks for the sympathy you have shown towards my compositions. I very, very much appreciate it!!!

Yours with sincere affection and respect,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. In his letter to Tchaikovsky from Vienna on 29 December 1881/10 January 1882 Adolph Brodsky wrote about his performance of the Violin Concerto at a Vienna Philharmonic Society concert on 22 November/4 December 1881, in which he had been the soloist and Hans Richter (1843-1916) had conducted. "To play this concerto in public became my dream from the very moment that I looked through it for the first time. This was two years ago", Brodsky explained. It had cost him great effort to overcome the technical difficulties, but the beauty of the concerto had soon made him forget about these: "What a delight! One can play it endlessly, and never get fed up with it!" Brodsky and Richter had lobbied for the concerto to be performed in Vienna, even though it had been rejected by the Philharmonic Society directors at a preliminary hearing. "And so he and I finally made it to the Philharmonic Concert, during which some Brahmsophile-Russophobe faction wanted us to fail and hissed zealously, but they were defeated by the majority of the audience which called me out three times with stormy applause". Brodsky's letter has been published in Воспоминания о русском доме (2006), p. 103–106. It is also partially cited in Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1997), p. 427–428. Although both Brodsky and the composer seem to have believed this was the concerto's premiere, they were apparently unaware that it had already been performed in Hannover on 1/13 March 1880, by the concertmaster of the city's Hopfkapelle, Georg Hänflein, conducted by Ernst Frank.
  2. In his letter of 29 December 1881/10 January 1882 Brodsky said that he had been delighted to read Tchaikovsky's letter to Lev Kupernik in which the composer had asked Kupernik to thank Brodsky on his behalf for performing the Violin Concerto, because he did not himself know the violinist's address. Kupernik had sent Brodsky a copy of this letter. See Letter 1904 to Lev Kupernik, 1/13 December 1881.
  3. The influential music critic Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904) published his notorious review of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in the 24 December 1881 [N.S.] issue of the Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse, in which he observed how in the first movement "crudeness" eventually won the upper hand over musical elegance; how the Adagio, with its "gentle Slavic melancholy" reconciled one briefly with the work; but how the Finale then plunged one into "the brutal, sad merriness of a Russian parish fair": "We see nothing but wild, vulgar faces, hear coarse swearing and can literally smell the cheap liquor. Friedrich Vischer [a famous writer on aesthetics] once observed, referring to obscene descriptions in literature, that there are images "which one can see stink". Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto suggests the dreadful thought that there might well also be works of music whose stinking one can hear". The relevant passages of Hanslick's review are reprinted in: Ernst Kuhn, Tschaikowsky aus der Nähe. Kritische Würdigungen und Erinnerungen von Zeitgenossen (1994), p. 197–198. As Modest pointed out in his biography of his brother after citing Hanslick's review, Tchaikovsky would never forget these scathing words and frequently referred to them in letters and conversations. See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1997), p. 430. See also Letter 1914 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 December 1881.
  4. Tchaikovsky is referring to Leopold Auer and Iosif Kotek, both of whom had been scheduled to premiere the Violin Concerto at Russian Musical Society concerts (Auer in March 1879, and Kotek in the autumn of 1881) but had pulled out in each case because the new work seemed too difficult to them. Kotek's 'betrayal' hurt Tchaikovsky especially because when writing the concerto he had consulted him throughout on the violin part (see Letter 1914 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 December 1881, and Letter 1915 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 18/30–19/31 December 1881). Auer would change his opinion of the concerto several years later and performed it with great success.
  5. In his letter of 29 December 1881/10 January 1882 Brodsky wrote that he would very much like to play the Violin Concerto in Tchaikovsky's presence, and that perhaps an opportunity for this might present itself in Paris, where he was intending to travel next: "If possible, could you not write a few lines to Monsieur Colonne in order to have him to invite me to play your concerto? After all, I think you are on friendly terms with him, and he has already included many of your compositions in his programmes". The letter which Tchaikovsky, judging from the above, wrote to Colonne on the same day as this letter to Brodsky has not come to light.
  6. In his letter of 29 December 1881/10 January 1882 Brodsky wrote that he had been invited by the Austrian conductor Felix Mottl (1856-1911), who was then music director at the Karlsruhe Opera, to perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in Karlsruhe in February 1882. In his next letter to Tchaikovsky, written in Vienna on 11/23 February 1882, Brodsky informed the composer that nothing had come of these plans to organize a concert in Karlsruhe, although Mottl had invited him to perform the concerto there during the next season, in October 1882. This letter from Brodsky has also been published in Воспоминания о русском доме (2006), p. 107–109.