Letter 242

Date 22 October/3 November 1871
Addressed to Mily Balakirev
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 11, л. 58–59)
Publication Переписка М. А. Балакирева и П. И. Чайковского (1868-1891) [1912], p. 70–71
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 264
Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 162–163.

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Москва. 22 октября 1871 г[ода]

Мой милый друг!

Ваша мысль о кантате «Ночь» мне очень нравится, и конечно я воспользуюсь ею, хотя и не в ближайшем будущем. В настоящее время я в немногие свободные часы занимаюсь оперой «Опричник», которую мне весьма хочется окончить в течение нынешней зимы. Полагаю, что эта несчастная опера потерпит участь моей «Ундины», но тем не менее хочу её докончить, ибо до тех пор я не в состоянии с любовию приняться за другое сочинение. Трудно мне будет достать поэта для «Ночи», так как написавший мне «Хор насекомых» в Москве не находится, но я этим озабочусь и кое с кем переговорю.

Будьте добры, напишите мне при случае программу всех Ваших концертов, она меня крайне интересует. Мне бы хотелось также знать, в какое время будет дан концерт с моим хором; кто знает, может быть, мне бы удалось махнуть в Питер?

Здесь был Корсаков, которого я, к сожалению, не видал.

Не знаю, известно ли Вам, что я уже не живу с Рубинштейном и квартирую совершенно самостоятельно на Спиридоновке в доме Лебедева. Во многих отношениях это оказалось гораздо удобнее и приятнее, хотя и дороже. Письма Ваши потрудитесь адресовать в консерваторию (это вернее): Никитская, в доме кн. Воронцова

Затем прощайте, милый друг; от души желаю Вам успеха.

П. Чайковский

Касательно средней части моего хорика я нахожу, что Вы совершенно правы, говоря, что педаль на Es значительно скрывает её пошлый характер. Даже нещадный гонитель всего обыкновенного и пошлого Альбрехт, в прошлом году сначала на меня взъевшийся за итальянскую мелодию и терции, потом успокоился и даже похвалил

Кланяйтесь Корсакову, Бородину и Кюи.

Moscow. 22 October 1871

My dear friend!

Your idea about a cantata to be called "Night" appeals to me very much, and I will of course make use of it, though not in the near future [1]. At present I am working in my few spare hours on the opera "The Oprichnik", which I very much want to complete in the course of the coming winter. I expect that this unfortunate opera will suffer the same fate as my "Undina", but nevertheless I want to finish it, because until then I won't be able to embark on any other work with enthusiasm. It will be hard for me to get hold of a librettist for "Night", since the one who wrote the "Chorus of Insects" for me is not currently in Moscow [2]. However, I will attend to this matter and talk it over with one or two people.

When you have the opportunity, would you be so kind as to write to me with the programme of all your concerts? This interests me greatly. I would also like to know when the concert featuring my chorus is to take place. Who knows, perhaps I might be able to come to Piter!

Korsakov was here, but, unfortunately, I didn't get to meet him.

I don't know whether you are aware that I am no longer living with Rubinstein, and that I have taken lodgings entirely on my own on Spiridonovka [Street], at Lebedev's house. This has in many respects proved to be much more convenient and agreeable, albeit more expensive, too. Would you please address your letters to the Conservatory (it is safer that way): Nikitskaya [Street], in the house of Pr[ince] Vorontsov.

Whereupon I say goodbye, dear friend. I wholeheartedly wish you success.

P. Tchaikovsky

With regard to the middle section of my little chorus, I think you are quite right in saying that an E-flat pedal point can mask its banal character considerably [3]. Even Albrecht, that implacable scourge of all that is ordinary and banal, who last year lambasted me at first for the Italian melody and thirds [in that section], calmed down eventually and even praised it.

Give my regards to Korsakov, Borodin, and Cui.

Notes and References

  1. In his letter to Tchaikovsky of 10/22 or 11/23 October 1871, Balakirev recorded his impressions of the Chorus of Flowers and Insects which he was rehearsing for a concert of the Free Music School. Balakirev observed that it would be a pity if the chorus remained an isolated piece, adding, however, that it was too lyrical to be used in an opera. He therefore suggested that Tchaikovsky compose a cantata, to be entitled Night, which would be made up of several choruses of fantastic creatures: apart from the Chorus of Flowers and Insects it would comprise choruses of water-sprites, goblins, spirits etc. Moreover, Balakirev gave detailed instructions as to how the eerie atmosphere of a night in the forest might be conveyed musically — the last chords would then represent the rising sun. Despite his assurance in the above letter, Tchaikovsky did not write such a cantata. See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 161–162.
  2. The botanist and educationalist Sergey Rachinsky had supplied the libretto for Tchaikovsky's projected fantastic opera Mandragora, of which only one scene — the Chorus of Flowers and Insects — was composed.
  3. In his letter to Tchaikovsky of 10/22 or 11/23 October 1871, Balakirev said that he liked the Chorus of Flowers and Insects very much, "except for the E-flat major section with its trivial melody". "Nevertheless," he added, "I hope that an accompaniment with an E-flat pedal point will diminish somewhat the banal character of this melody". See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 161.