Letter 2130

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 8/20 October 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. 88
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 87
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XI (1966), p. 244–245

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
8 окт[ября]

Милый Сергей Иванович!

Простите, ради Бога, что так долго не отсылал увертюры. Письмо Ваше пришло в моё отсутствие и пролежало несколько дней в ожидании меня (я был в Киеве), а потому и не мог выслать ранее прошедшей субботы 2 октября. Пресловутого подробного критического анализа не успел написать по следующим причинам. Сначала я торопился окончить вчерне оперу и вместе с тем написать 6 пьес для ф[орте]п[иано], заказанных Юргенсоном (я написал их исключительно ради денег, каюсь в этом, и потому убедительно прошу Вас не удивляться пустоте и дрянности их и не отркывать тайного стимула, подвигнувшего меня на написание их), а потом мне пришлось переинструментовать несколько номеров «Орлеанской Девы», вследствие неизбежной необходимости транспонировать партию Девы для меццо-сопрано. Сначала я думал, что мне придётся только указать, как и где переписать оркестровые голоса тоном ниже, — но, получив указания практичного и опытного Направника, увидел, что придётся в многих местах заново написать партитуру. Не могу Вам выразить, до чего тяжело вновь возиться с вещью, уже давно сочинённой и к которой авторское чувство успело совершенно отстынуть. Однако ж я всё это сделал и вчера отослал. Но теперь так устал, что даже письма писать трудно. А критический анализ всё-таки, вероятно, сделаю и по миновании надобности возьму опять у Вас партитуру. Покамест же повторю, что это очень пленительная вещь, хотя кроме игры звуков в ней ничего нет. Она меня восхищает подобно тому, как восхищает увертюра к «Волшебной флейте», но не волнует и не трогает. Итак, не очень-то гордитесь, ибо цель искусства не только услаждать слуховые органы, но и душу и сердце. Авось, и это Вы сумеете.

До свиданья.

Ваш, П. Чайковский

8 October

Forgive me, for God's sake, for having taken such a long time to send off the overture [1]. Your letter arrived in my absence and lay here for a few days waiting for me to get back (I was in Kiev), and that is why I could not send it before last Saturday, 2 October. I haven't had time to write that notorious detailed critical analysis for the following reasons. First of all, I was in a hurry to finish the opera in outline, and at the same time to write 6 pieces for piano commissioned by Jurgenson (I am sorry to say that I wrote them solely for the money's sake, and I therefore urge you not to be surprised by their vacuity and feebleness, and not to reveal the secret stimulus which roused me to write them), and then I had to re-orchestrate several numbers in The Maid of Orleans, as a result of the inevitable necessity of transposing the Maid"s part for mezzo-soprano. At first I thought that I would just have to indicate how and which passages in the orchestral parts were to be copied out down by one tone, but upon receiving instructions from the practical and experienced Nápravník, I realised that in many passages I would have to write the score afresh. I cannot convey to you how burdensome it is to have to busy oneself again with a work which was composed long ago, and the author's feeling for which has already cooled off altogether. Nevertheless, I have managed to do all this and yesterday sent everything off. But I am so tired now that even writing letters is difficult. Still, I will probably undertake that critical analysis, and when you no longer need it I shall ask you for the score again [2]. In the meantime I would like to reiterate that this is a very captivating work, although apart from a play of sounds there is nothing else in it. It fascinates me in a similar way to how I am fascinated by the overture to "The Magic Flute", but it does not move me, it does not touch me. And so, don't feel too proud, because the purpose of music is not just to delight our organs of hearing, but also our soul and heart. Perhaps you will eventually manage to do this too.

Until we meet.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Taneyev had been commissioned by the Moscow Conservatory's new director, Nikolay Hubert, to write an overture for the Arts and Industrial Exhibition which took place 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. It seems that Taneyev had given the score to Tchaikovsky when they met in Moscow at the later concert of 8/20 August whose programme was made up exclusively of Tchaikovsky's works.
  2. In a letter which bears no date, but which was evidently written at the end of September, Taneyev informed Tchaikovsky: "At the Musical Society they want to perform my overture one more time, and, furthermore, yesterday Jurgenson received a letter from Anton Grigoryevich, who wishes to look over it (a wish evidently elicited by the excessive praise which you lavished on it in your letter to Anton Grigoryevich [this letter from Tchaikovsky to Anton Rubinstein has not survived]). Since I am intending to revise it, it is essential that I have the score so that I am able to put it into order before the concerts start. That is why I am requesting you to send it as quickly as possibly to me at the following address...". Taneyev's letter has been published in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 86–87. The revised version of Taneyev's Overture on a Russian Theme in C major was performed at a Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow on 11/23 December 1882, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer, and at an RMS concert in Saint Petersburg on 18/30 December 1882, conducted by Taneyev himself. 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. 139.