Letter 2059

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 11/23 July 1882
Addressed to Sergey Taneyev
Where written Grankino
Language Russian
Autograph Location Moscow: Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (ф. 880)
Publication Письма П. И. Чайковского и С. И. Танеева (1874-1893) [1916], p. 82
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 80–81
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XI (1966), p. 162

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
11 июля

Сергей Иванович! Я здесь, в глуши малороссийской степи, разделяю одиночество брата Модеста, который был болен, выдержал операцию, да и до сих пор ещё не поправился. Решительно не знаю, когда можно будет отсюда выбраться, ибо кроме здоровья брата удерживают здесь дела, и потому ничего решительного о посещении Селища не скажу Вам. Весьма может статься, что во 2-ой половине сего месяца попаду с братом в Москву и в таком случае, быть может, из Москвы проеду к Вам, — но, ей-Богу, верного ничего не знаю. В случае, если решу поездку, то своевременно извещу, дабы мне прислали лошадей. Не прошу Вас писать мне, ибо, покамест не разъяснятся все вопросительные знаки, касающиеся ближайшего будущего, не могу дать никакого адреса. Кланяйтесь всем Масловым.

Ваш, П. Чайковский

P. S. Простите за безалаберность письма.

Премного благодарен за исполнение концерта. Признаю охотно, что он страдает длиннотою, и жалею, что те люди, коим два года тому назад было вверено критическое рассмотрение его, своевременно не указали этого недостатка. Они бы этим оказали мне большую услугу, может быть, даже бóльшую, чем превосходное исполнение этого концерта в его настоящем, столь несовершенном виде. Тем не менее, merci, merci, merci.

Сгораю желанием видеть партитуру увертюры.

11 July

Sergey Ivanovich! I am sharing here, in the depths of the Litte-Russian steppe, the solitude of my brother Modest who was ill and had to undergo an operation, and who in fact still hasn't recovered fully [1]. I really do not know when I will be able to get away from here, because apart from my brother's state of health, there are also business matters detaining me here, and so I cannot tell you anything definite as to whether I can visit Selishche [2]. It is quite possible that in the latter half of this month I will go to Moscow with my brother, and in that case I may perhaps travel on to your place, but, truly, I can't say anything for certain. In the event that I decide on making this trip, I shall notify you in good time so that I can have horses sent to me [3]. I'm not asking you to write back, because until all the interrogation signs regarding the near future have been cleared up, I cannot give you any address. Regards to all the Maslovs.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

P. S. Forgive me for the slovenly style of this letter.

I am extremely grateful to you for performing the concerto [4]. I readily admit that it is marred by excessive length [5], and I am sorry that those people whom two years ago I asked to look through it with a critical eye did not point out this flaw in good time. They would thereby have rendered me a great service — perhaps an even greater one than giving a splendid performance of this concerto in its present, so imperfect, shape. Nevertheless, merci, merci, merci.

I have a burning desire to see the score of the overture [6].

Notes and References

  1. The composer's brother Modest had had to have an abscess lanced in two separate painful operations. Exasperated by the conduct of his eldest niece, Tatyana Davydova, Tchaikovsky had decided to leave Kamenka in early/mid June and had gone to Nikolay Konradi's family estate at Grankino to be with Modest and his pupil — see Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 406–408.
  2. On 18/30 June 1882, Taneyev had written to Tchaikovsky from Selishche (in Oryol Province), the estate of his friends Fyodor Maslov and his three sisters, saying that everyone was expecting him in Selishche. Taneyev's letter has been published in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 80.
  3. i.e. so that the Maslovs could send their coachman with a carriage to Karachev station (on the Moscow-Oryol-Vitebsk railway line) to pick up Tchaikovsky and drive him to Selishche.
  4. In his letter of 18/30 June 1882 Taneyev reported briefly on how the Piano Concerto No. 2 had been received at its first performance in Russia, at a concert held in Moscow on 21 May/2 June 1882 as part of the Arts and Industrial Exhibition, with Taneyev himself as the soloist and Anton Rubinstein conducting. Tchaikovsky had left Moscow a few weeks before the concert to travel to Kamenka for the summer. (The concerto was in fact premiered outside Russia, namely in New York on 31 October/12 November 1881, with Madeline Schiller as the soloist, and Theodore Thomas conducting).
  5. |This is what Taneyev wrote about how the Piano Concerto No. 2 had been received in Moscow: "Opinions about it are quite diverse, but they all agree that the first and second movements are too long. I have heard comments like this: that it is one of the most beautiful concertos and that in performance it sounds brilliantly; but there were also comments on how the first concerto should be given preference over the second, etc. There are few who approve of the violin and cello solos in the second movement. Instead, people are saying that the piano is superfluous in that movement, and this is something with which I think one cannot but agree: the balance is far too skewed towards these other two instruments. The overall feeling, though, is that this is a concerto which can most definitely be played in public".
  6. Taneyev had been commissioned by the Moscow Conservatory's new director, Nikolay Hubert, to write an overture for the Arts and Industrial Exhibition in Moscow that summer. Taneyev himself conducted the first performance of his Overture on a Russian Theme in C major (based on a song from Rimsky-Korsakov's 1876 anthology 100 Russian Folk-Songs) at the Exhibition's fifth symphonic concert on 13/25 June 1882. For more information on the overture, see Sergey Popov, «Неизданные сочинения и работы С. И. Танеева — Арехеографический очерк» (Unpublished compositions and works by S. I. Taneyev. An archaeographical outline) in Сергей Иванович Танеев. Личность, творчество и документы его жизни (Moscow / Leningrad, 1925), p. 138–139.