Letter 2520

Date 23 July/4 August 1884
Addressed to Sergey Taneyev
Where written Skabeyevo
Language Russian
Autograph Location Moscow: Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (ф. 880)
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 653–656 (abridged)
Письма П. И. Чайковского и С. И. Танеева (1874-1893) [1916], p. 115–118
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 110–112
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XII (1970), p. 405–408

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Адресуйте: Моск[овско]-Курская жел[езная] дор[ога],
ст[анция]. Климовка, оттуда в Скабеевку, П. И. Ч[айковский].

23 июля 1884. Скабеево

Милый Сергей Иванович! Я получил Ваше письмо незадолго до выезда из Гранкина и не нашёл времени написать оттуда; а мне хочется обстоятельно поговорить с Вами об Альбрехте, ибо я желал бы, чтобы Вы лучше и справедливее к нему относились. Альбрехт не только добрый человек, который этой добротой заслуживает с Вашей стороны высокомерного сожаления, но и в высшей степени даровитый и полезный человек. Факт, что его мало уважают и любят, меня огорчает, но не удивляет. Я достаточно пожил на свете, чтобы привыкнуть к подобным явлениям. В той же самой консерватории есть люди совершенно бездарные, круглые невежды, сумевшие Бог знает отчего и как заслужить популярность, уважение и авторитетность. И пусть это так будет; пусть в то же время скромный, но даровитый Альбрехт не заслуживает уважения и почтения со стороны публики, но мне хотелось бы, чтобы Вы не разделяли предубеждения крайне неосновательного и в сотый раз доказывающего, как то, что называют толпой, слепо и глупо. Долго прожив рядом с Карлушей и бывши к нему всегда очень близок, я имею претензию хорошо его знать, и моё мнение о нём непоколебимо. Сообщу его Вам, в надежде пошатнуть в Вас высокомерно-презрительное отношение к нему.

Во-1-х, я считаю его необычайно даровитым музыкантом. Это один из очень немногих известных мне музыкантов, в коих я усматриваю настоящий, не лишённый самобытности композиторский талант. Не могу винить Вас в том, что Вы не разделяете моего верования в живую творческую струйку в таланте Альбрехта, потому что Вы, вероятно, никаких его вещей не знаете. Я же знаю их множество, и некоторые из них имели свойство (напр[имер], фантазия на русские песни для плохого трактирного органа в трактире, уже давно не существующем) производить во мне нечто вроде трепетания восторга. Из таланта этого ничего не вышло и ничего уже не выйдет по обстоятельствам жизни. Отец его, сам превосходный музыкант и капельмейстер, по непостижимой для меня причине не только не поощрял, не развивал в сыне таланта, а, кое-как обучивши его игре на виолончели, отвёз его пятнадцатилетним мальчиком в Москву, определил на нищенское жалование при театре и бросил вполне на произвол судьбы. Пошла бесконечная канитель игры на репетициях, на спектаклях, борьба с нищетой, потом женитьба, потом знакомство с Ник[олаем] Григ[орьевичем], чёрная работа в консерватории и т. д., и т. д. Во-2-х, Альбрехт безусловно честен и обладает тем редким качеством, что себя, свои частные интересы всегда приносит в жертву делу. Р[усское] муз[ыкальное] общ[ество], а потом консерватория были и суть тем делом, которому он слепо предан. Быть может, в достижении того, что он считает благом для консерватории, он бывает односторонен, мелок, бестактен, странен, — готов в этом согласиться, но никто и никогда не уверит меня в том, что Карлуша коварный и хитрый интриган, преследующий личные цели. Почему судьба уготовила для него в течение долгих лет роль столь незаметную, стёртую, что публика не хочет почтить в нём талантливого деятеля, — этого я не знаю. Оттого ли, что в своей рабской преданности к Ник[олаю] Григ[орьевичу], которого он сделал себе кумиром, он сам пересолил, или что покойный, очень любя Альбрехта, ценил в нём, однакож, больше эту преданность и любовь, чем способности и талант, — но только раз навсегда Альбрехт был обречён быть в чёрном теле. Я вовсе не хочу обвинять Ник[олая] Григ[орьевича], который, будучи совершенно другого склада и характера, подобно своему помощнику, любил, хотя и иначе, но только одно дело и, заботясь лишь об общем, не успевал иногда вникнуть в некоторые частности. Вероятно, в характере Карлуши были стороны, мешавшие ему занять более блестящее положение, но, во всяком случае, не понимаю, что Вы подразумеваете под словами, что он «сам себя не уважает». Излишек скромности? Пожалуй, но этот излишек для меня трогателен, ибо я в нём вижу всегдашнее забвение себя ради дела.

Итак, я уважаю Альбрехта: 1) как человека даровитого, 2) как человека честного.

Перехожу теперь к делу о «Фигаро». Решительно не понимаю, почему он поступил так, что дал Вам повод обвинять себя в обмане. Вероятно, Вы с своей точки зрения правы, т. е. нехорошо, что Вы были введены в заблуждение не прямым образом действий его. Но хотелось бы слышать, как он мне разъяснит эту историю; вероятно, тут какое-нибудь недоразумение. Знаю только, что Альбр[ехт] питает к Вам величайшее уважение и высоко Вас ценит. Но за всем тем скажу, что и теперь меня не особенно сильно возмущает то обстоятельство, что Вы не дирижировали. Положим, что Вам пришлось сделать всю чёрную работу. Но при Вашей любви к Моцарту никакой чёрной работы быть не может, когда дело идёт об исполнении одного из лучших произведений Моцарта. А главное, будь Альбрехт плохим дирижёром, способным лишь испортить то, что Вы прекрасно подготовили, я бы, пожалуй, сердился. Но в том-то и дело, что он превосходно провёл оперу. Кого, следовательно, мне сожалеть? Вас, потому что Вы лишены были удовольствия дирижировать? Но не скрою, что мне ещё более было бы жаль Альбрехта, если б в настоящем своём положении, будучи способным и достойным сидеть за дирижёрским пюпитром, он опять, в тысячный раз, скрывался бы в закулисной тени. Сожалеть же о судьбе оперы Моцарта решительно не могу, ибо хотя не сомневаюсь, что Вы бы превосходно дирижировали, но и Карлуша дирижировал превосходно.

Кончаю всю эту скучную рацею и прошу Вас, милый Сергей Иванович, не сердиться на меня, если тон этого горячего заступничества за Альбрехта Вам будет неприятен. Я очень близко и живо принимаю к сердцу Ваши интересы, и Вы знаете, как я Вас люблю и уважаю, — но я имею давнюю дружескую привязанность к Альбрехту, и мне хотелось бы, чтобы Вы лучше к нему относились.

Мы живём здесь среди прелестной местности, производящей на меня тем более чарующее впечатление, что я приехал из голой степной местности. Рядом с моей комнатой живёт Ларош. Мы пишем статью о Моцарте. Сюжет столь для меня симпатичный, что роль писца для меня чрезвычайно приятна. Ларош в духе и хорошо себя ведёт, т. е. мало спит и мало пьёт водки. Очень радуюсь картине Владимира Егоровича; питаю к этому живописцу величайшую симпатию. Очень, очень жаль, что не удаётся побывать в Селище. Всем Масловым поклон. До свиданья!

О симфонии никому ничего не скажу; жду с нетерпением случая увидеть её. Отчего Вы не соблазняетесь моим примером и не пишите сюит? Уверяю Вас, что это идеальнейшая форма.

Ваш П. Чайковский

Use this address: Moscow-Kursk Railway,
Klimovka station, from there to Skabeyevo, for P. I. Tch[aikovsky].

23 July 1884. Skabeyevo

Dear Sergey Ivanovich! I received your letter shortly before my departure from Grankino and could not find the time to write to you from there. Now, I would like to have a comprehensive discussion with you about Albrecht, because I wish you to have a better and fairer attitude towards him [1]. Albrecht is not just a good person whose goodness merits condescending pity on your part, but also a most highly gifted and useful person. The fact that people feel little respect and affection for him distresses me, but does not surprise me. I have lived sufficiently in this world to have grown accustomed to such things. In that same Conservatory there are people utterly devoid of any gifts and distinguished by crass ignorance, who have, God knows why and how, managed to win popularity, respect, and the status of authorities. And let it be so; let it be so that at the same time the modest, but gifted Albrecht is unable to win the public's respect and esteem, but I would like you not to share this extremely unfounded prejudice, which for the umpteenth time shows how blind and stupid that entity is which we call the multitude. Having lived alongside Karlusha for many years, and bearing in mind that I have always been very close to him, I can claim to know him well, and my opinion of him is unshakeable. I shall give you my opinion, in the hope of shaking your arrogant and contemptuous attitude towards him.

First of all, I consider him to be an extraordinarily gifted musician. He is one of the few musicians known to me in whom I discern a real and quite original talent for composing. I cannot blame you for not sharing my faith in the vital creative vein in Albrecht's talent, because you probably do not know any of his works. I do know lots of them, and some of them (for example, a fantasia on Russian songs written for a shabby [chamber] organ in a tavern which long ago ceased to exist) have been capable of awakening in me something akin to the thrill of enthusiasm. Nothing has come of this talent, and nothing ever will, due to the circumstances of his life. For some reason which I have never been able to understand, his father, who was himself an outstanding musician and music director, not only didn't encourage and nurture his son's talent, but, after teaching him so-and-so to play the cello, he took the fifteen-year-old boy to Moscow, got him a miserably paid employment at the theatre, and abandoned him altogether to the mercy of fate. There followed the never-ending chore of playing at rehearsals and performances, the struggle with poverty, then marriage, then his acquaintance with Nikolay Grigoryevich, his drudgery at the Conservatory, etc. etc. Secondly, Albrecht is unconditionally honest and possesses that rare quality of always sacrificing himself, his personal interests, for the sake of the cause. The Russian Musical Society, and then the Conservatory were and are the cause to which he is blindly devoted. Perhaps in seeking to attain what he considers to be good for the Conservatory he can sometimes be monotonous, petty, tactless, odd—I am ready to concede that, but no one will ever manage to persuade me that Karlusha is an insidious and sly intriguer pursuing personal ends. Why fate, in the course of so many years, has meted out to him a role so inconspicuous and run-down that the public refuses to respect him as a talented figure, that I do not know. Maybe because he himself went over the top in his slavish devotion to Nikolay Grigoryevich, whom he turned into his idol, or because the deceased, whilst loving Albrecht very much, nevertheless appreciated this devotion and love in him more than his abilities and talent—but, be that as may be, Albrecht was once and for all condemned to be the drudge of the house. I do not by any means wish to accuse Nikolay Grigoryevich, who, whilst he was of a quite different stamp and character, resembled his assistant in loving, albeit differently, the cause alone, and who, caring as he did only for the general picture, was sometimes unable to enter into certain particulars. There were probably traits in Karlusha's character which prevented him from occupying a more brilliant position, but in any case I do not understand what you mean by the words: "he doesn't respect himself" [2]. An excess of modesty? Maybe, but I find this excess touching, because I see in it a sign of how he always forgets himself for the sake of the cause.

Thus, I respect Albrecht: 1) as a gifted person, 2) as an honest man.

Now I come to "Figaro" [3]. I really do not understand why he behaved in such a way as to give you cause for accusing him of deceit. You are probably right from your point of view, that is, it is a bad thing that you were misled by his non-straightforward conduct. However, I should like to hear him clarify this story for me himself—there is probably some misunderstanding at the bottom of all this. All I know is that Albrecht feels the greatest respect for you and appreciates you very highly. But all this notwithstanding, I must say that even now I am not particularly upset by the fact that you did not conduct. Granted, you may have had to do all the hard work. But given your love for Mozart, there can be no question of any drudgery here when it was a case of performing one of Mozart's finest works. Most importantly, if Albrecht happened to be a poor conductor just capable of ruining what you had prepared so wonderfully, then I would probably have been angry. But the point is that he conducted the opera magnificently. For whom should I therefore feel sorry? For you, because you were deprived of the pleasure of conducting? But I cannot deny that I would have felt even sorrier for Albrecht, if in his present situation, capable and worthy as he is of sitting at the conductor's desk, he had again, for the thousandth time, hidden in the backstage area. As for feeling sorry for the fate of Mozart's opera, that I simply cannot do, because although I do not doubt that you would have conducted it splendidly, still Karlusha did after all conduct it splendidly himself.

I shall conclude this boring lecture and beg you, dear Sergey Ivanovich, not to be angry with me if you should find the tone of this passionate intervention on behalf of Albrecht unpleasant. I take your interests to heart very closely and keenly, and you know how much I love and respect you, but I am attached to Albrecht by a long-standing friendship, and I would like you to show a better attitude towards him.

We are living here in the middle of a delightful area which produces an all the more enchanting impression on me in that I came here from a bare steppe region. Laroche is staying in the room next to mine. We are writing an article on Mozart. I find the topic so appealing that the role of scribe is uncommonly agreeable for me. Laroche is in a good mood and is behaving well, that is, he is sleeping little and drinking only a little vodka. I am very glad about Vladimir Yegorovich's painting [4]}—I feel the greatest sympathy for this painter. It is a great, great pity that I won't be able to visit Selishche [5]. Give my regards to all the Maslovs. Good-bye!

I shan't tell anyone about the symphony. I am impatiently awaiting an opportunity to see it [6]. Why do you not let yourself be tempted by my example and write suites? I assure you that it is the most ideal genre [7].

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

<references> [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

[7]

  1. 1.0 1.1 In his letter to Tchaikovsky written from Moscow in mid/late July 1884 (only the last pages of this letter have survived) Taneyev had once again touched on the performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute by students from the Moscow Conservatory at the city's Bolshoi Theatre on 29 March/10 April 1884, which he had expected to conduct, but in which he ultimately had had to cede the conductor's rostrum to Karl Albrecht. Taneyev was upset about this, and Tchaikovsky had already remonstrated with him (in letter 2465), arguing that it was selfish of him to begrudge Albrecht, his senior by twenty years and a man whose talent and personal qualities were underestimated by almost everyone, this opportunity to shine in public. In his letter of mid/late July 1884 Taneyev described how, when it was decided that The Magic Flute was to be put on by the students, he had told Albrecht and Kashkin that he was very keen on conducting the performance and offered to take charge of all the rehearsals with the soloists and chorus. Taneyev insisted that he did so with a view to doing the Conservatory a good turn, knowing that the elder professors were often reluctant to take on the extra obligations entailed by having to conduct student productions. He emphasized that he had no way of telling that Albrecht secretly wished to conduct the performance himself, because in the preceding weeks the latter had seemed to treat it as a settled matter that Taneyev was to conduct. However, after the final act had been rehearsed Albrecht had told him that since Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich was expected to attend the performance, it was better if they conducted an act each (bearing in mind that Albrecht was the Conservatory's director at the time). Taneyev had replied that the opera should have just one conductor, and that he had nothing against Albrecht conducting the whole evening. During their conversation Albrecht had apparently assured Taneyev that he was not at all keen on conducting, and that he was doing so merely because forced to by protocol. When, however, Taneyev met Kashkin shortly afterwards the latter told him that Albrecht had been speaking to him for a whole month about how it was necessary that he should conduct the performance, and that to him, Kashkin, it was quite clear that this was something which Albrecht very much desired. Taneyev concluded: "The whole point is that Albrecht tricked me", although he added at the end of his letter: "I very often feel sorry for Albrecht, for at bottom he is a good person". Taneyev's letter has been published in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 108–109.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Towards the end of his letter of mid/late July 1884 Taneyev had observed: "It is highly disagreeable for me that the man who stands at the helm of the Conservatory should not command universal respect. The reason for this is simple: he himself has little self-respect. This is something which I have unfortunately had occasion to verify from time to time".
  3. 3.0 3.1 In the first part of his letter of mid/late July 1884 (this part has not survived), Taneyev had evidently told Tchaikovsky about their mutual friend Vladimir Makovsky's recently completed painting A Family Matter (Семейное дело) — note based on reference provided by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 112.
  4. 4.0 4.1 This was a slip of the pen by Tchaikovsky for The Magic Flute.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Selishche was the estate in Oryol Province belonging to Fyodor Maslov and his three sisters, where Taneyev regularly spent the summer months. Despite receiving numerous invitations to visit Selishche over the years, Tchaikovsky never went there.
  6. 6.0 6.1 In the first part of his letter of mid/late July 1884 (the section that has not survived), Taneyev had clearly told Tchaikovsky about the new work he was writing, his Third Symphony in D minor, for which he had completed the sketches in late March/early April 1884 whilst staying in Selishche, and the orchestration of which he would finish on 4/16 October 1884. Taneyev played his symphony to Tchaikovsky in Moscow on 26 August/7 September (see Letter 2538 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 1/13 September 1884 and Taneyev's letter of 28 August/9 September 1884 to Varvara Maslova in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 395), and Tchaikovsky would later provide a detailed appraisal of his former pupils work (see letter 2560 to Taneyev, 28 September/10 October 1884). The symphony, which was dedicated to Anton Arensky but was never published, was first performed at a Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow on 26 January/7 February 1885, conducted by Taneyev himself. For more information on Taneyev's Third Symphony, see Sergey Popov, «Неизданные сочинения и работы С. И. Танеева — Археографический 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. 145–149.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Four days before writing this letter, on 19/31 July 1884, while still in Grankino, Tchaikovsky had completed the orchestration of his Suite No. 3. He had decided to compose a suite rather than a symphony earlier that year, partly because "the [suite] form has for some time been particularly attractive to me, because of the freedom it affords the composer not to be constrained by any traditions, conventional methods and established rules". See Letter 2467 to Nadezhda von Meck, 16/28 April–19 April/1 May 1884.