Letter 2557

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 25 September/7 October 1884
Addressed to Sergey Taneyev
Where written Pleshcheyevo
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. 119
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 114
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XII (1970), p. 447

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
25 сент[ября] 1884

Милый Сергей Иванович!

Я внимательно прочёл Вашу партитуру и мог бы многое заметить, но сужу по себе: ненавижу, когда критикуют моё сочинение до его появления в свет, и потому не лучше ли воздержаться от замечаний? Т. е., разумеется, я с точки зрения инструментовки могу подвергнуть критике эту партитуру. В музыкальном отношении она мне тем более нравится, чем более я с ней знакомлюсь. Оркестр Ваш, разумеется, будет звучать хорошо и так, как у Вас сделано, но уж если пошло на придирчивую критику, то я имею что сказать и в своё время скажу. Теперь же, право, лишнее, так как я всё-таки приведу Вас в смущение, — а замечания такого рода, что нельзя (предположив, что Вы найдёте их основателньными) переделать так, как бы мне хотелось, в один присест. И потому я лучше умолчу. Есть чудесные эффекты и красивые места, — но... ну, одним словом, позвольте отложить сообщение моего обстоятельно изложенного мнения до того времени, когда симфония будет сыграна.

Напишите, когда Вам нужна будет партитура. Я ещё не знаю, когда приеду в Москву. Погода так хороша, что не тронусь, пока она будет стоять.

Ваш П. Чайковский

25 September 1884

I have carefully read through your score [1] and could make a lot of comments, but judging from my own experience — I hate it when my compositions are criticized before they have come into the world — would it not be better if I refrain from making comments? That is, I could of course subject this score to critical analysis from the point of view of instrumentation. As regards the music, the more I familiarize myself with it, the more I like it. Your orchestra will of course sound good the way you have done it, but if it is a question of providing a fault-finding critique, then I do have some things to say and I shall say them in due course. Now, though, it would really be superfluous to do so, since I would just end up disconcerting you, and my comments are of a kind that it would be impossible (assuming that you accept them as justified) to rework it at one sitting in the way that I would like you to. And so it is better if I remain silent. There are wonderful effects and beautiful passages, but... well, in short, allow me to defer giving you my comprehensively formulated opinion until the symphony has been performed [2].

Write to me and let me know when you need the score. I still can't say when I shall be coming to Moscow. The weather is so glorious that I won't set off from here for as long as it lasts.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The score of the first movement of Taneyev's Third Symphony in D minor. Taneyev had completed his new symphony in sketch form in late March/early April 1884, and had played it to his former teacher in Moscow on 26 August/7 September (see Tchaikovsky's Letter 2538 to his brother Modest on 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). At one of his subsequent meetings with Tchaikovsky in Moscow (on 2/14–3/15 September and mid/late September) Taneyev had given him the full score of the first movement asking him to look over it.
  2. After receiving this letter Taneyev replied on 27 September/9 October 1884: "Your letter has intrigued me very much, and I am burning with impatience to find out what lies hidden behind the mysterious 'but...'. Only in one case am I wary of hearing unfavourable comments — namely when a work isn't yet composed in its entirety, because I am afraid lest I might then lose the desire to continue working on it. In the given case, however, it is quite the contrary: I am most interested in learning your opinion, especially since I pondered over the symphony's orchestration quite assiduously, and the flaws which may crop up in it cannot be ascribed to my having written this piece in a rush — that is why it is most important for me that these flaws should be pointed out to me. On the strength of all that I have said, I ask you, provided you don't feel too lazy, to write me a letter indicating all my mistakes in detail. I would be sincerely grateful to you for this". Taneyev's letter has been published in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 114–155. Tchaikovsky would fulfil this request in his next letter to Taneyev on 28 September/10 October 1884 (Letter 2560). After receiving Tchaikovsky's critique of the first movement, which he accepted only partially, Taneyev completed the orchestration of the remaining movements on 4/16 October. 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.