Letter 2036

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 3/15 June 1882
Addressed to Adolph Brodsky
Where written Kamenka
Language Russian
Autograph Location Moscow (Russia): Russian National Museum of Music (ф. 385, No. 634) [1]
Publication Советская музыка (1959), No. 1, p. 81–82
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XI (1966), p. 138–139
Воспоминания о русском доме (2006), p. 117–118

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Каменка, 3-го июня

Добрейший Адольф Давидович!

Рецензий не получил, да Вы об этом не беспокойтесь. Во-1-х, я английского языка не знаю, а во-2-х, никогда особенно не интересуюсь рецензентскими отзывами. Рецензенты редко говорят что-нибудь достойное быть принятым к сведению; они неосновательно ругают, но неосновательно и хвалят или же отделываются общими фразами, лишёнными всякого серьёзного значения. Конечно, неприятно читать на себя печатную брань, — но столь же неприятно читать и глупые похвалы. Важно, чтобы рецензии были, т. е. чтобы новое сочинение так или иначе обратило на себя внимание, и если на этот раз так и случилось, то я совершенно доволен. Что касается сочувственных отзывов об игре Вашей (а для виртуозной славы это нужно и полезно), — то я заранее убеждён, что в них недостатка не было. Вы виртуоз не только талантливый и симпатичный, но и эффектный; у Вас есть та виртуозная жилка, которая далеко не всякому, даже очень даровитому, музыканту-исполнителю дана от природы.

Итак, добрейший друг, не заботьтесь вновь посылать мне рецензии и напишите мне только, все ли единогласно хвалили Вашу игру.

Вы кончаете Ваше письмо предположением, что я совершенно счастлив и что мне хорошо пишется. К сожалению, предположение Ваше не соответствует грустной действительности. На меня обрушилось несколько семейных огорчений и забот, вследствие которых я ничего не работаю и чувствую себя совсем не так покойно и хорошо, как этого требует успешное сочинительство. Завтра я уеду на несколько времени выручать из очень тяжёлого скопления невзгод и огорчений одного из моих братьев. Останусь там, вероятно, недели 3-4.

Адрес следующий: Полтавской губернии, Константиноградского уезда, почтовая станция Ново-Николаевка, оттуда в Гранкино, П. И. Ч.

Будьте здоровы, голубчик.

Ваш П. Чайковский

Kamenka, 3rd June

I haven't received the reviews, but you needn't worry about that. In the first place, I have no knowledge of English [2], and in the second, I am never particularly interested in reviewers' comments [3]. Rarely do reviewers say anything that deserves to be taken into consideration. They criticize gratuitously, but they also praise gratuitously or otherwise resort to general phrases which are devoid of any serious meaningfulness. Of course, it is unpleasant to read printed invectives against oneself, but it is just as unpleasant to read stupid laudations. The main thing is that there are reviews, that is, that a new composition manages to attract attention some way or other, and if this is what has happened on this occasion, then I am quite satisfied. As for appreciative comments about your playing (and these are necessary and helpful for a virtuoso's fame), I am certain in advance that there must have been plenty of these. You are not only a talented and likeable virtuoso, but also a striking one: you possess that virtuosic vein which by no means every performing musician, even a very gifted one, is endowed with by nature.

And so, most kind friend, don't trouble yourself about sending me the reviews afresh, and just let me know in your next letter whether your playing was unanimously praised by everyone.

You conclude your letter with the assumption that I am completely happy and that I am composing with ease. Unfortunately, your assumption is not borne out by sad reality. Several domestic woes and worries have come down upon me, as a result of which I am not doing any work and do not feel as calm and well as is necessary for successful composition [4]. Tomorrow I am going away for a while to help one of my brothers out of a very arduous tangle of adversities and calamities [5]. I shall probably stay there for some three or four weeks. 

The address is as follows: Poltava province, Konstantinograd district, Novo-Nikolayevka post office, from there to Grankino, P. I. T.

Keep well, golubchik.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The autograph of this letter was previously in the possession of the great Russian violinist David Oistrakh (1908–1974). Note in Воспоминания о русском доме (2006), p. 241.
  2. Tchaikovsky had studied some English at the School of Jurisprudence, although subsequent lack of practice led to his forgetting most of what he had learnt. In the summer of 1883, however, he would embark on intensive self-study of English, with a view to being able to read Dickens in the original language. See Letter 2380 to Nadezhda von Meck, 1/13 November 1883. He had previously enjoyed reading many of Dickens's novels in Russian translations, and in later years George Eliot would become another favourite writer (although he seems to have read her works in French translations).
  3. On 26 April/8 May 1882 Adolph Brodsky had played Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto at a concert in the St. James's Hall, London, conducted by Hans Richter. This was the first performance in Great Britain of the concerto, and it followed Brodsky's successful performance in Vienna on 22 November/8 December 1881. In a letter to the composer from London on 28 April/10 May 1882 Brodsky had promised to send him the reviews of the concert as soon as they appeared, and in a later letter from the English capital on 27 May/8 June 1882 he informed Tchaikovsky that he had sent the reviews as printed matter, and was worried that they might have been lost in the post. Both of the violinist's letters have been published in Воспоминания о русском доме (2006), p. 113–114, p. 116–117.
  4. At Kamenka that summer Tchaikovsky was becoming increasingly exasperated with the conduct of his eldest niece, Tatyana ("Tanya"), who ever since the breakdown of her engagement to an army officer the previous year had been behaving in an erratic manner, injecting herself with morphine and flirting with various local admirers.
  5. The composer's brother Modest was then at Grankino, the family estate of his pupil Nikolay Konradi whose father had recently died. The will had not yet been opened, and Nikolay's mother, Alina Bryullova, who had never shown much interest in her deaf-mute son, had also turned up in Grankino, determined to secure her claims to the family property (even though she had divorced Nikolay's father two years earlier). Apart from the unpleasant situation resulting from Alina Bryullova's presence at Grankino, Modest was also plagued by ill-health. See Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 406–407.