Letter 2819

Date 22 November/4 December 1885
Addressed to Félix Mackar
Where written Maydanovo
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique
Publication Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 45–47
Советская музыка (1970), No. 9, p. 61–63 (Russian translation)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIII (1971), p. 200–202

Text and Translation

French text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Maïdanowo, près Kline, Moscou
22 Novembre/4 Décembre 1885

Cher Monsieur et ami!

Je Vous remercie vivement pour la bonne nouvelle que Vous voulez bien me donner ; je suis enchanté de ce que le concerto ait été joué chez Lamoureux et qu'il ait eu du succès. Je m'empresserai d'ecrire quelques lignes de remerciments à M[ademois]elle Silberberg et lui enverrai ma photographie, ainsi qu'à M[onsieu]r Lamoureux, mais, comme je ne sais où adresser pour qu'ell parvienne jusqu'à lui, je V[ou]s prie, cher Monsieur, de vouloir bien la lui remettre.

Comment V[ou]s exprimer ma reconnaissance pour toutes le peines que V[ou]s V[ou]s donnez dans le bût de propager mes œuvres ? J'en suis vivement touché et me félicite d'avoir en V[ou]s un ami et un soutien sûr. Malheureusement, grâce à une organisation exceptionnelle, à un manque total du talent de se faire valoir soi-même, à une sauvagerie maladive qui me pousse à chercher partout la solitude, — je ne puis contribuer en aucune façon à la tâche que V[ou]s avez entreprise. D'abord je ne suis pas virtuose. Ensuite, ce qui est surtout bien dommage, — je ne puis être chef d'orchestre. Les quelques essais que j'ai faits autrefois en qualité de chef d'orchestre n'ont pas été couronnés de succès. Cela tient à mon caractère timide, à ma sauvagerie, à l'état déplorable de mes nerfs, quoique, en somme, je jouis maintenant d'une très bonne santé. J'ai fait une grande maladie il y a de cela une dizaine d'années et depuis lors je ne puis vivre que dans la retraite, ayant renoncé complètement à me présenter devant le public.

Vous voyez donc, cher ami (laissez moi V[ou]s donner ce nom), que V[ou]s avez affaire à un homme incapable de faliciter Votre tâche. Et malheureusement, mon ambition est très grande et je ne puis V[ou]s cacher, que se faire connaître à Paris, — a été toujours mon très vif désir. Tout ce que je puis faire c'est d'y venir et si V[ou]s le trouvez nëcessaire, d'y aller rendre visites à des notabilité musicales, tels que Lamoureux, Colonne, Marmontel, et encore Dieu sait ce que d'émotions cela doit me couter. Il y a une seule consolation dans tout cela. De ma vie je n'ai fait un seul pas pour faire connaitre tant en Russie qu'à l'Etranger mes compositions et cepandant elles font petit-à-petit leur chemin ; cela prouve qu'elles valent quelque chose et cela me fait éspérer qu'un jour viendra quand V[ou]s pourrez V[ou]s dire que V[ou]s avez bien fait de les avoir acquises.

Si M[ada]me Esipoff vient à Paris, je voudrais bien qu'elle y jouat une Fantaisie que je lui ai dédiée et qui, chez nous, a eu beaucoup de succes il y a un an ; je suppose que si Vous la priez de le faire — elle le fera.

Je ne désavoue pas la musique de mon ballet «Le lac des cygnes» ; je crois qu'elle n'est pas trop mal, — mais le sujet est assommant et je crains pour le succès. J'aimerai plutôt qu'on montât à Bruxelle un de mes opéras, une fois que l'on veut monter quelque chose et c'est dans ce sens que je vais écrire à Auguste Dupont, que je connais. Mais le plus cher de mes veux, le suprème bonheur serait pour moi, si V[ou]s réussissiez dans Vos efforts pour obtenir pour moi trois actes à l'Opéra-Comique, à Paris. Je sens, je sais, que je pourrais très bien faire. Mais je sais aussi qu'il ne faut pas trop espérer. Je ne pourrai pas V[ou]s renseigner sur la manière dont M[onsieur] Bernard a cédé ses droits sur l'op. 37 à M[onsieur] Hamelle, vu que je n'en sais rien.

Quant à mes relations avec Jurgenson — elles sont purement amicales, mais j'ai conservé ma liberté pleine et entière et il n'y a aucun contrât entre nous pour l'avenir. Il est certain qu'en Russie je ne m'adresserai jamais à aucun autre éditeur, n'ayant aucun sujet de mécontentement contre Jurgenson, qui a toujours été très correct vis à vis de moi, — mais quant à l'etranger, j'ai conservé ma pleine liberté et si Vous y tenez, je tacherai de faire la pièce Russe que V[ou]s me conseillez de faire spécialement pour V[ou]s et certainement pas pour de l'argent, car je veux profiter de cette occasion de Vous exprimer ma reconnaissance pour tout ce que V[ou]s avez fait pour moi.

En ce moment je corrige les epreuves d'une grande œuvre symphonique intitulée Manfred. J'aime à croire que c'est la plus parfaite de mes œuvres, mais les auteurs se trompent souvent et j'attendrai qu'elle soit jouée à Moscou (moi de Mars) pour V[ou]s en donner des nouvelles. J'ai commencé aussi un grand opéra sur un sujet populaire russe.

J'ai eu enfin le loisir d'examiner les éditions que V[ou]s m'avez envoyées. M[onsieu]r Emile Bernard et Lefèbre sont de vrais artistes et on peut V[ou]s féliciter de les posséder ; j'ai surtout goûté la charmante sérénade de Lefèbre. Veuillez remercier ces Messieurs pour le plaisir que j'ai eu de faire leur connaissance.

Je veux bien V[ou]s aider dans l'affaire de «Roméo» — mais dites moi ce qu'il faut faire et ce qu'il faut lui écrire. Je connais fort peu M[onsieu]r Bock mais il me fait l'effet d'un homme charmant. J'ecrirai, puisque V[ou]s le voulez, ma notice biographique et V[ou]s l'enverrai bientôt. Je V[ou]s envoie ci-joint deux photographies, l'une pour V[ou]s, l'autre pour M[onsieu]r Lamoureux. Mais Vous m'enverrez bien la Votre, n'est-ce pas ? je serai aussi fort content de posseder celle de Lamoureux.

Votre ami dévoué et bien reconnaissant,

P. Tschaïkovsky

Maydanovo, near Klin, Moscow
22 November/4 December 1885

Dear Monsieur and friend!

I thank you keenly for the good news which you are so kind as to pass on to me. I am delighted to hear that the concerto was played under Lamoureux, and that it was successful. I shall hasten to write a few lines of thanks to Miss Silberberg and will send her my photograph, as well as to Mr Lamoureux, but, since I do not know where to address it to so that it reaches him, I kindly ask you, dear Monsieur, to forward it to him [1].

How shall I convey to you my gratitude for all the trouble you are taking for the purpose of propagating my works? I am keenly touched by this, and congratulate myself on having found in you a friend and a reliable support. Unfortunately, due to an exceptional constitution, a total lack of talent for asserting myself, a morbid shyness which compels me to seek solitude everywhere, I cannot contribute in any way to the task which you have undertaken. For a start, I am not a virtuoso. Then—and this, above all, is a great pity—I cannot be an orchestra conductor [2]. The few attempts which I once made to take on the role of an orchestra conductor were not crowned by success [3]. This has to do with my shy character, my unsociability, the deplorable state of my nerves, although on the whole I am now enjoying very good health. I suffered a great illness some ten years ago, and since then I can only live in seclusion, having abandoned the idea altogether of presenting myself before the public [4].

So you can see, dear friend (allow me to call you by that name), that you are dealing with a person who is incapable of facilitating your task. Yet, unfortunately, my ambition is very great, and I cannot hide from you that it has always been a very keen wish of mine to make myself known in Paris. All that I can do is to come there, and, if you consider it necessary, to pay visits to notable figures of the music world there, such as Lamoureux, Colonne, Marmontel—and God knows how much agitation this will cost me. In all this there is only one consolation for me. Never in all my life have I taken a single step to promote my compositions, be it in Russia or abroad, and yet they are little by little making their own way: this proves that they are worth something, which leads me to hope that the day will come when you will be able to tell yourself that you did well in acquiring them.

If Madame Yesipova comes to Paris, I would very much like her to play a Fantasia there which I dedicated to her, and which in our country had a lot of success a year ago. I think that if you ask her to do so, she will agree [5].

I do not disavow the music of my ballet "Swan Lake"; I think that it's not too bad, but the plot is unbearable and I fear for its success. I would prefer it if one of my operas were to be staged in Brussels, given that they do want to stage something by me there, and it is in this sense that I shall write to Auguste Dupont, whom I know [6]. However, my most cherished wish, the greatest bliss for me would be if you were successful in your efforts to secure for me three acts at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. I feel, I know that I could do this very well. However, I also know that one mustn't expect too much [7]. I would not be able to enlighten you on the way in which Mr Bernard transferred to Mr Hamelle his rights to Op. 37, since I know nothing about the whole matter [8].

As for my relations with Jurgenson, they are nothing but friendly, but I have retained my full and complete liberty, and there is no contract binding us for the future. It is certain that in Russia I shall never turn to any other publisher, since I have no cause whatsoever to complain about Jurgenson, who has always treated me very decently. With regard to foreign countries, however, I have retained my full liberty, and if you wish me to, I shall try to write the Russian piece which you advise me to write specially for you—and, what is more, I shall do so without payment, since I wish to make use of this opportunity to demonstrate to you my gratitude for everything you have done for me [9].

At the moment I am correcting the proofs of a big symphonic work entitled Manfred. I like to think that this is the most perfect of my works, but authors often deceive themselves, and so I shall wait until it has been played in Moscow (in March) before I give you any news about it [10]. I have also begun a big opera on a Russian national subject.

I have finally had time to examine the editions which you sent me. Mr Emile Bernard and Lefebvre are true artists, and you may be congratulated on having them in your catalogue; I particularly enjoyed Lefebvre's charming serenade. Please thank these gentlemen for the pleasure which I derived from making their acquaintance [11].

I should certainly like to help you in the "Romeo" affair, but tell me what I have to do and what I should write to him. I don't know Mr Bock very well, but he seems to me a delightful person [12]. Since you so wish, I shall write a biographical notice about myself and will send it to you very soon [13]. With this letter I enclose two photographs: one for you, the other for Mr Lamoureux. But you will send me yours, won't you? I would also be very happy to have that of Lamoureux [14].

Your devoted and most grateful friend,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. In a letter from Paris on 18/30 November 1885 Félix Mackar informed Tchaikovsky about the previous evening's performance of "your splendid concerto Op. 23" at the Éden-Théâtre, in which the Polish-born pianiste Cécile Silberberg (b. 1858) had been the soloist and Charles Lamoureux (1834–1899) had conducted. "She achieved a great success; hers is a splendid talent," Mackar wrote. "For me these were my first moments of excitement as your publisher. I am pleased to report that I was very happy over your success. Lamoureux likes this work very much, and his orchestra did wonders; the concerto's 2nd and 3rd movements were appreciated above all." After the concert, Mackar continued, he had called on Mlle Silberberg, in order to thank her on Tchaikovsky's behalf, as well as for himself: "She was very satisfied with her success; she is fascinated by your music and, being Polish, she wanted to present herself to the public playing in one of your works. In that she has been successful, and she allowed me to count on her as a loyal and devoted performer of your works. If you could send her your photograph with an inscription, she would be very happy". Mackar added that Lamoureux had also asked him for a photograph of the composer. Mackar's letter has been published (in Russian translation only) in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 148–150. Tchaikovsky's letter to Cécile Silberberg has not come down to us, but she acknowledged receipt of it in a letter to the composer from Paris on 30 November/12 December 1885, which has been published in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 86. In this letter Mlle Silberberg warmly thanked Tchaikovsky for his letter and the enclosed photograph, adding: "It was with the keenest interest that I studied your wonderful concerto, but the enthusiastic applause which it awakened was without any doubt intended much more for the composer than for its performer". The Piano Concerto No. 1 would thereafter become a staple of her repertoire. In a letter to Tchaikovsky from Paris, also dated 30 November/12 December 1885, Lamoureux would thank Tchaikovsky for the photograph which Mackar had passed on to him, adding: "As you know, your concerto in B-flat minor had a tremendous success at my last two concerts. Mlle Cécile Silberberg performed it magnificently and proved herself to be a virtuoso and a musician of the first rank. You may rest assured that both your honour as a composer and your splendid work were spiritedly upheld by this young artiste and the musicians of my orchestra. I was very sorry that your absence meant you could not be a witness to your triumph". Lamoureux's letter can also be found in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 216–217.
  2. In his letter of 18/30 November 1885, Mackar explained that he had spoken with several Parisian musicians, including Antoine François Marmontel (1816–1898), the highly influential professor of piano at the Paris Conservatory, and managed to enlist many of them to feature Tchaikovsky's works at their concerts and recitals: "In short, an entire artistic movement in your favour is developing, and I am more and more glad that I acquired proprietary rights to your works. I think I shall be repaid for my initiative, and as for you, your name is becoming increasingly famous here". However, the ever solicitous publisher had then asked: "Tell me, what kind of a concert could we organize here with your participation? Are you a virtuoso or a conductor?".
  3. Though he had gained some experience with the student orchestra of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, Tchaikovsky had never felt at ease when conducting. At his public début as a conductor, during a charity concert on 19 February/2 March 1868 at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre, he was so nervous that he completely forgot the score of his own work on the programme (the Entr'acte and Dances of the Chambermaids from The Voyevoda) and messed up all the cues. The performance was only saved by the fact that the orchestra knew the music well. He had another go at conducting in February 1877, which went somewhat better (a performance of his own Slavonic March), but it was not until the premiere of Cherevichki in January 1887 that he gradually began to acquire the confidence necessary for appearing as a regular conductor of his own works—and sometimes those of other composers, too—in Russia and abroad.
  4. An indirect allusion by Tchaikovsky to the crisis of his marriage to Antonina Milyukova in 1877: the nervous illness which was given as the pretext for Tchaikovsky's separation from his wife and his departure from Russia in September 1877 seems to have been largely invented, but over the years he would himself come to look on the events that led him into that marriage as the actions of someone who had not been in his right mind. The rumours that this flight had inevitably awoken at the time, and the desperate actions which Antonina subsequently took to try to win back her husband, did, however, make Tchaikovsky genuinely apprehensive about appearing in public in Russia for a number of years.
  5. In his letter of 18/30 November 1885, Mackar had pointed out that the Russian pianiste Anna Yesipova would be coming to Paris during the winter, and that it should be possible to arrange for her to play some of Tchaikovsky's works with Colonne's orchestra (Mackar had provided Colonne with the scores of several works by Tchaikovsky). The early editions (two-piano arrangement and orchestral parts) of the Concert Fantasia for piano and orchestra, Op. 56 (1884), carried a dedication to Yesipova, but when the full score was published in 1893 her name had been replaced by that of Sophie Menter—possibly because Yesipova had not championed the work so actively as her German colleague did.
  6. In his letter of 18/30 November 1885, Mackar had written: "Auguste Dupont has written to me from Brussels asking for the score of your ballet Swan Lake. If he is a friend of yours, could you help me by writing to him that he should strive to secure a production of this work at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels?" The composer and pianist Auguste Dupont (1827–1890) was at the time of this letter professor of piano at the Brussels Conservatory. Tchaikovsky probably became acquainted with him through the latter's younger brother, the composer and conductor Joseph Dupont (1838–1899), who from 1867 to 1870 had been the conductor of the Italian Opera Company in Warsaw and as such had travelled to Moscow together with the company and its star singer, Désirée Artôt, in 1868 and during subsequent tours. At the time of Tchaikovsky's letter to Mackar, the younger Dupont had been principal conductor of the Théâtre de la Monnaie for thirteen years, and he was also responsible for the series of "Concerts Populaires" in Brussels. Joseph Dupont had himself approached Tchaikovsky in 1876 with a view to performing one of his works in the Belgian capital (see Letter 508a). It seems that Mackar was hoping that Auguste Dupont would be able to perusade his younger brother to put on Swan Lake at the Théâtre de la Monnaie. No letters from Tchaikovsky to Auguste Dupont have come to light so far, nor is it clear whether any of his stage works were actually performed in Brussels during his lifetime. For more information on the Dupont brothers (especially Joseph, whose career was the more interesting), see two articles by Christophe Pirenne: 'Dupont et Dupont à Bruxelles', Revue belge de musicologie LV (2001), p. 283–302, and 'Joseph Dupont, chef d'orchestre du Théâtre impérial Italien de Varsovie (1867–1870)', Revue belge de musicologie LX (2006), p. 141–153.
  7. In Letter 2762 to Mackar of 8/20 September 1885 Tchaikovsky had expressed his wish to write a one-act opera in French, hoping that it would be accepted for performance at the Opéra-Comique. Picking up on this in his letter of 18/30 November, Mackar had observed: "In the event that I should hear of a good libretto in three acts (for the Opéra-Comique) or in four (for the Opéra), I shall be delighted to let you know about it. However, one shouldn't write a work in one act. There's no point in that—the public tends to come late and miss the start, and the first act is usually performed in front of an empty auditorium". In April 1888 Mackar would inform Tchaikovsky that the librettists Léonce Détroyat and Louis Gallet were very keen on collaborating with Tchaikovsky on a French-language opera for Paris: the projected opera La Courtisane which they eventually decided to work on was, however, never realised.
  8. Mackar was keen to secure the copyright and distribution rights to all of Tchaikovsky's works in France and Belgium, including those works that Jurgenson had not been able to sell to him in August because he was not their original publisher. The Frenchman was accordingly negotiating with other publishers, and in his letter to Tchaikovsky of 8/20 September 1885, he expressed his surprise that the copyright to the piano cycle The Seasons (originally serialized by Nikolay Bernard in his monthly journal Nuvellist in 1876) should now be held by his Parisian rival Jules Hamelle (1836–1917). Hamelle had published the twelve pieces in an arrangement for violin and piano under the title Les Saisons (1878). Note based partly on information provided by Vladimir Fédorov in Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 47, note 10.
  9. In his letter of 8/20 September 1885, Mackar had asked Tchaikovsky whether he was obliged to give all his future works to Jurgenson first, and he also suggested that if Tchaikovsky could write a piano piece made up of "a few well-known Russian themes" which would make for "an agreeable chamber piece entitled 'Russian Carnival'", and which could be dedicated either to Marmontel or to Cécile Silberberg, that would help to make his music even more popular in France. Tchaikovsky did not get round to fulfilling this request until February 1886, when he wrote the piano piece Dumka (subtitled "Russian rustic scene"). However, Jurgenson chose not to forward the manuscript to Mackar in Paris and published it himself later that year.
  10. In his letter of 8/20 September 1885, Mackar had asked Tchaikovsky to keep him informed about any new works he was completing at the moment, and to give him an indication of their scope and characteristics, as well as providing a piano arrangement if possible. The Manfred symphony was first performed at a Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow on 11/23 March 1886, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer.
  11. Mackar had asked Tchaikovsky to comment on some works by Émile Bernard (1843–1902) and Charles-Édouard Lefebvre (1843–1917) which he had published, and of which he had sent samples to Russia.
  12. The overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet was not among the works whose copyright and distribution rights for France and Belgium Jurgenson sold to Mackar in August 1885, because the universal copyright to it was held by the firm of Bote & Bock of Berlin. Mackar greatly lamented not being able to include in his catalogue this overture, which ever since the first version was published in 1871 had won Tchaikovsky an ever growing number of admirers in Western Europe, and in his letter to the composer on 8/20 September he had asked: "Could you not help me to come to terms with Bote & Bock in Berlin regarding the possibility of acquiring your Romeo; or, if that is not possible, at the very least to obtain the right to include it in my catalogue, which would become more complete with this work?".
  13. See Letter 2854 to Mackar of 14/26 January 1886.
  14. In a letter dated 30 November/12 December 1885, Charles Lamoureux, as mentioned earlier, thanked Tchaikovsky for his photograph. He also enclosed his own with the following inscription: "À Mr P. Tschaikowsky / témoignage de sincère admiration / Paris 12 Xbre 1885 / Ch. Lamoureux" (To Mr P. Tchaikovsky / a token of sincere admiration / Paris, 12 December 1885 [N.S.] / Ch. Lamoureux) See the insert of photographs between p. 144 and p. 145 of Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970).