Letter 2453a

Date 11/23 March 1884
Addressed to Alfred Bruneau
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French
Autograph Location unknown [1]
Publication Tschaikowsky-Gesellschaft Mitteilungen, Heft 4 (1997), p. 14 (including facsimile of first page, p. 15, and German translation, p. 16)
Cajkovskijs Homosexualität und sein Tod. Legenden und Wirklichkeit (1998), p. 200 (including facsimile of first page, p. 201, and German translation, p. 202)

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
11/23 Mars 1884
S[ain]t. Petersbourg

Monsieur le Président!

Je viens de recevoir Votre lettre qui a fait bien de détours en Europe avant de me rattrapper ici. Celle de M[onsieur] Godard m'est arrivée un dizaine de jours avant la Votre à Berlin et je me suis empressé de me conformer à Votre désir et de recommander pour être exécutées au Festival de l'Union Internationale deux Œuvres de moi en priant M. Godard de choisir laquelle des deux lui convendrait davantage. En même temps j'avais lancé une dépèche à mon editeur en le priant d'expédier le plus vite possible les parties et partitions de ces deux œuvres à Paris. J'espère que déjà elles sont arrivées à destination et que M. Benjamin Godard en a fait le choix.

Je me vois obligé, malheureusement, de décliner l'insigne honneur de prendre personellement part à l'exécution de mon ouvrage, persuadé d'ailleurs que conduite par M[onsieur] Godard, elle ne peut être qu'excellente.

Sur ce, permettez[-]moi, Monsieur le Président, de V[ou]s exprimer ma très vive reconnaissance pour l'attention flatteuse que Vous m'avez temoignée, et en V[ou]s priant d'agréer l'assurance de ma très haute estime, me dire, Votre dévoué serviteur,

P. Tschaïkovsky

11/23 March 1884
Saint Petersburg

Monsieur President![2]

I have just received your letter, which has made quite a detour through Europe before catching up with me here [3]. The letter from Monsieur Godard reached me some ten days before yours in Berlin [4], and I hastened to comply with your request and to recommend two works of mine for performance at the festival of the International Union, asking M. Godard to choose which one of the two would be the more suitable for him [5]. At the same time I sent a telegram to my publisher, asking him to dispatch to Paris the parts and scores of these two works as soon as possible [6]. I hope that they have already reached their destination, and that M. Godard has been able to make his choice.

Unfortunately, I find myself compelled to decline the great honour of personally taking part in the performance of my work, but I am convinced that under the baton of Monsieur Godard it cannot but receive an excellent performance [7].

Herewith allow me, Monsieur President, to convey to you my very keen gratitude for the flattering attention which you have shown me, and, requesting you to accept the assurance of my very high esteem, I would have you consider me, your devoted servant,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The autograph was sold in 2018 by R. R. Auctions, Boston [1]. It had formerly been at Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Universitätsbibliothek, Tübingen, Germany, and was subsequently owned by the Musée des lettres et manuscrits in Paris, until that institution closed in 2015.
  2. The following is based on the commentary by Thomas Kohlhase in Paris vant bien une messe! Bisher unbekannte Briefe, Notenautographie und andere Čajkovskij-Funde (1998), p. 194–204. In the autumn of 1883 the Union Internationale des Compositeurs was set up in Paris with the aim of presenting contemporary foreign and French works in a series of concerts each year. The first series was to take the form of a festival of ten concerts at the Palais du Trocadéro between April and June 1884 [N.S.]. The newly-formed association sent official invitations to various composers, including one to Tchaikovsky as the leading representative of Russian music. In this letter, dated 20 October 1883 [N.S.], the founding members of the Union invited Tchaikovsky to send, for the forthcoming festival, a work of his that, if possible, had not been heard in Paris before, and they also asked him if he was willing to come to Paris to conduct it himself. He was asked to send his reply either to the Union's president, Alfred Bruneau, or to Benjamin Godard (1849–1895), a noted composer who was also the Union's official conductor. Shortly afterwards Godard himself wrote separately to Tchaikovsky (in a letter that has not survived), asking him to send the scores of the Suite No. 1 and the Italian Capriccio. Tchaikovsky wrote to Jurgenson on 19/31 October 1883 (Letter 2372), informing his publisher of Godard's request and instructing him to send these scores to Paris immediately. Tchaikovsky's subsequent negotiations with the Union Internationale are detailed below in the notes for this letter to Bruneau. The announcement for the (just four) concerts which were held at the Palais du Trocadéro from 3 April to 12 June 1884 [N.S.] mentions a "suite d'orchestre" by Tchaikovsky, but it is not clear whether this refers to the Suite No. 1 or the Suite No. 2 (whose recently published score Tchaikovsky also asked Jurgenson to send to Paris). It is known that the Italian Capriccio was performed at one of these concerts, but the reviews were quite negative.
  3. The letter from Alfred Bruneau to which Tchaikovsky is replying here has not come to light.
  4. The letter from Benjamin Godard which Tchaikovsky received in Berlin (where he stopped briefly on the way back to Russia from Paris) has survived in the archives at Klin. In this letter, dated 22 February 1884 [N.S.], Godard asked Tchaikovsky to send by 19 March [N.S.] all the orchestral parts for the Italian Capriccio, and added that the Union Internationale hoped that he himself would come to Paris to conduct the performance of his work. Godard also explained that because the Suite No. 1 had recently been performed in Paris at one of the popular concerts conducted by Jules Pasdeloup, the Union had decided to select just the Italian Capriccio, which would be new to Parisian audiences.
  5. This reply to Godard has not survived, but from Letter 2451 to Jurgenson (see the note below) it is clear that Tchaikovsky wanted Godard to consider also his Suite No. 2 for performance in Paris, and that in his reply to Godard he asked him to choose between this suite and the Italian Capriccio.
  6. See Letter 2451 (actually a telegram) to Pyotr Jurgenson, 29 February/12 March 1884.
  7. It would not be until January 1887, with the premiere of Cherevichki, that Tchaikovsky felt prepared to mount the conductor's rostrum again to conduct a performance of his own music. A few distressing conducting experiences in the 1860s and 70s had left him convinced that he was too nervous to stand at the helm of an orchestra. In their invitation letter to Tchaikovsky of 20 October 1883 [N.S.] the founders of the Union Internationale had explained that Godard would take over all those works the composers of which preferred not to conduct themselves.