Letter 2071

Date 28 July/9 August 1882
Addressed to Sergey Taneyev
Where written Kamenka
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. 82–84 ("26 July")
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 81–82
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XI (1966), p. 176–177

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Каменка
28 июля

Милый Сергей Иванович!

Вчера я приехал сюда в Каменку вместе с больным братом Модестом и нашёл Ваше письмо. На предыдущее письмо Ваше я отвечал Вам, сколько помнится, кратко, — но наверно отвечал, и думаю, что Вы его получили уже после написания настоящего письма. Ужасно мне не везёт с Селищем. Мне в самом деле ужасно хотелось бы побывать там, — но вот уже третье лето, — что по не зависящим от меня причинам не могу этого сделать. Теперь можно почти с уверенностью сказать, что и на этот раз я не попаду к Вам. Ей-Богу, очень досадно. Ну, авось, лет через 20, когда уже сделаюсь окончательно руиной, появлюсь в Масловском пепелище. Вы спрашиваете, что я пишу? Довольно долго я ничего не писал за неимением охоты к писанию; потом начал понемногу продолжать музыку на либретто «Мазепа», сделанное Бурениным для Давыдова и полученное мною ещё в прошлом году от сего последнего. Пишу далеко не с прежней лёгкостью, медленно, с оглядкой, без восторгов и увлечений. Не знаю, что из всего этого выйдет.

Недавно я получил от Юргенсона по телеграфу известие, что в Праге дана «Орлеанская Дева» с блестящим успехом. Я было страшно возгордился, но, приехавши в Каменку, встретился с лицом, присутствовавшим на 2-ом представлении оперы, и гордость моя значительно поубавилась. Лицо это—сестра моя, которая, едучи из Карлсбада сюда, заехала в Прагу отдохнуть и случайно попала на представление оперы «Panna Orleanská». Оказывается, что театр, на коём эта «Panna» блистает своей девственностью, есть не что иное, как летний балаганоподобный, третьестепенный театрик с мизерной обстановкой. Певцы и певицы старые, хоры и оркестр недостаточны, декорации жалкие, — но тем не менее, судя по её рассказу, по мере сил приложено много старания, и если мне нечем гордиться, — то всё-таки меня немножко трогает и радует эта чешская «Panna».

Получил вместе с Вашим 2 письма от бывших московских музикусов: Котека и Бродского. Оба объявляют, что приглашены в Москву играть мой концерт. Однакож вижу из письма Юргенсона, что Котек заблуждается: приглашён Бродский и будет играть 8-го августа. Очень бы хотелось его услышать, — но вряд ли поеду. Терпеть не могу, когда даже и летом нужно испытывать авторские заботы, страхи и волнения. 8-го августа концерт предполагается из одних моих творений, и в числе оных, кроме Бродского с скрипичным конц[ертом], предполагается увертюра, написанная к выставке. Всё это мне крайне интересно, — но вместе с тем и крайне для меня беспокойно, и вряд ли я не предпочту остаться здесь, вдали от места, где в течение двух или 3 часов в изобилии будут литься звуки моего изделия. Ещё если б можно было присутствовать там никем не замечанным, — то, быть может, я бы соблазнился.

Как мне хотелось бы узнать Вашу увертюру! Если окажется, что я по обстоятельствам принуждён буду остаться здесь надолго, то напишу Вам и попрошу прислать партитуру.

Так ли я адресовал прошлое письмо? Не потому ли оно не дошло, что адрес недостаточен? Но в таком случае и это не дойдёт?

Господи, — к чему же я трачу время!!!

До свидания, голубчик Сергей Иванович. Всем Масловым усердный поклон.

Ваш, П. Чайковский

Если письмо дойдёт, ответьте тотчас же.

Kamenka
28 July

Yesterday I arrived here in Kamenka together with my sick brother Modest, and found your letter waiting for me [1]. To your preceding letter I replied briefly, as far as I remember, but I did definitely send a reply, and I think it will have reached you by the time I finish writing the current letter. I have such awful bad luck regarding Selishche. For I really would very much like to visit the place, but here we are already in the third summer that, for reasons which are beyond my control, I cannot do that. Now I can say with almost absolute certainty that this time, too, I won't be able to make it to your place. Truly, this is very frustrating. Well, perhaps in some twenty years' time, when I have finally turned into a physical wreck, I will turn up at the Maslovs' hearth. You asked what I am writing. For quite a long time I did not write anything because of a lack of any desire to do so. Then I began little by little to continue writing the music for a libretto on "Mazepa", which was [originally] drawn up for Davydov by Burenin [2], and which I received from the latter last year. I am far from writing with the same facility as before; rather, I am doing so slowly, cautiously, and without exhilaration and enthusiasm. I don't know what will come out of all this.

I recently received a telegram from Jurgenson informing me that The Maid of Orleans has been staged in Prague, and that it was a brilliant success [3]. I was on the point of feeling mightily proud about this, but when I arrived in Kamenka I met someone who had been present at the opera's second performance, and my pride was diminished considerably. That person was my sister, who, on the way home from Karlsbad, stopped over in Prague to get some rest and attended by chance a performance of the opera "Panna Orleanská" [4]. It turns out that the stage on which this "Panna" shines in the full glory of her maidenhood is nothing but a fair booth-like, third-rate little summer theatre with a quite wretched décor. The singers were old, the choruses and orchestra understaffed, the scenery lamentable, and yet, judging from her account, they put in, as far as possible, a great deal of effort, and even if I have nothing to be proud about, still I am somewhat touched and gladdened by this Czech "Panna".

At the same time as yours I received two letters from former Muscovite musicians: Kotek and Brodsky. They both state that they have been invited to Moscow to play my concerto. However, from Jurgenson's letter I can see that Kotek is mistaken: it is Brodsky who has been invited and who is due to play on 8th August. I would very much like to hear him, but it's hardly likely that I shall go [5]. I cannot stand it when even in the summer it is necessary to go through an author's worries, fears, and agitation. A concert made up solely of my works is scheduled for 8th August, and among these, apart from Brodsky with the Violin Concerto, the overture which I wrote for the Exhibition is to be performed [6]. All this is extremely interesting for me, but at the same time also extremely worrisome, and it is more likely than not that I shall prefer to stay here, far away from the place where in the course of two or three hours' sounds of my making are to pour forth in abundance. Perhaps if it were possible for me to be present there without being noticed by anyone, I might be tempted to go [7].

How I should like to get to know your overture! [8] If it turns out that I am forced by circumstances to stay here for a long period, then I shall write to you and ask you to send me the score.

Did I address my earlier letter correctly? Perhaps it hasn't reached you because the address was incomplete? But in that case this one, too, may not reach you?

Lord, what am I wasting my time for!!!

Until we meet, golubchik Sergey Ivanovich. I bow diligently to all the Maslovs.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

If this letter does reach you, answer it at once.

Notes and References

  1. In mid/late July 1882 Taneyev wrote to Tchaikovsky from Selishche (the estate in Oryol Province which belonged to his good friends, Fyodor Maslov and his three sisters), asking if his former teacher had received a letter which he had written to him on 18/30 June. Tchaikovsky had in fact answered that earlier letter on 11/23 July (Letter 2059), as he goes on to explain above. Both of Taneyev's letters have been published in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 80–81.
  2. Viktor Burenin (1841–1926), satirical poet, literary and theatre critic (from 1876 to 1917 he wrote regularly for Aleksey Suvorin's newspaper New Time).
  3. The Maid of Orleans was first staged in Prague on 16/28 July 1882. It was the first opera of Tchaikovsky's to be produced outside Russia, but it achieved only a succès d'estime, and, though the production was revived later that year, in December, it did not maintain itself on the repertoire of the Prague Opera for long. The conductor was Adolf Čech, who would also direct the Czech premiere of The Queen of Spades ten years later — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1997), p. 465.
  4. Czech for The Maid of Orleans.
  5. In a letter of 6/18 July 1882 Iosif Kotek informed Tchaikovsky that he was coming to Moscow, where the composer's Violin Concerto was due to be performed in Russia for the first time at one of the concerts organized as part of that summer's Arts and Industrial Exhibition. In a letter of 20 July/1 August Adolph Brodsky wrote that on 8/20 August he, Brodsky, would be playing the concerto at the Exhibition. Kotek's performance did not take place. At a concert featuring exclusively Tchaikovsky's music conducted by Ippolit Altani on 8/20 August 1882 Brodsky, who had premiered the Violin Concerto in Vienna nine months earlier, duly gave the first performance in Russia of that work. Tchaikovsky did in fact travel to Moscow to attend this concert. Both Kotek's and Brodsky's letters are kept in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 83, supplemented by information from Дни и годы П. И. Чайковского. Летопись жизни и творчества (1940), p. 273.
  6. The Arts and Industrial Exhibition in Moscow was originally to have taken place in 1881, and Tchaikovsky completed the piece which he had been commissioned to write for this—the festival overture The Year 1812—in the late autumn of 1880. Since the Exhibition was postponed by a year, the overture's first performance did not take place until the abovementioned concert conducted by Ippolit Altani on 8/20 August 1882.
  7. The programme of the concert of Tchaikovsky's works on 8/20 August 1882 featured: The Tempest, the Violin Concerto (soloist Adolph Brodsky, first performance in Russia), the Italian Capriccio, the festival overture The Year 1812 (first performance), two of Lel's songs from The Snow Maiden (performed by Anna Ryndina), and two romances (performed by Dmitry Usatov). Tchaikovsky was at present at the concert, and the audience gave him an enthusiastic ovation — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 83.
  8. 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.