Letter 2980

Date 22 June/4 July 1886
Addressed to Félix Mackar
Where written Moscow
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique
Publication Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 55
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIII (1971), p. 373–374.

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Moscou 22 Juin/4 Juillet 1886

Mon cher ami !

Me voila depuis plusieurs jours dans mon pays. Le voyage s'est effectué dans les meilleurs conditions possibles. L'enfant a été bien sage et je n'ai pas eu beaucoup à en souffrir, car, heureusement, c'est le plus doux enfant du monde. Ayant passé deux jours à Petersbourg, je suis allé chez moi, et me voilà aujourd'hui à Moscou pour affaires de toute espèce. J'ai parlé à Jurgenson à propos de la convention que l'on veut abroger. Comme Vous, il trouve qu'il serait parfaitement juste de la maintenir, – mais notre Gouvernement ne fait que gagner à l'abrogation d'un traité qui a été conclu dans le temps pour faire la cour à l'Empereur Napoléon III, et qui, maintenant que V[ou]s êtes gouverné[s] par Mr Floquet et consorts, – n'a que fort peu de chances pour subsister. Cependant je V[ou]s promets de faire tout mon possible pour tâcher de faire qu'on renouvelle une convention qui est basée sur la justice et l'interêt commun.

J'ai reçu de la part de M-me Reutlinger les épreuves de mes photographies. Toutes les poses sont parfaitement réussi[e]s et je tiens beaucoup à en avoir une douzaine de chaque. Veuillez donc, cher ami, commander à Mme Reutlinger ce qu'il me faut et expédier la commande à P. Jurgenson pour remettre à P. Tchaïkovsky. Veuillez aussi payer le montant de la note de Mme Reutlinger et me l'envoyer et aussitôt je règlerai nos comptes avec Vous. Vous ai-je dit que j'avais promis de donner gratis à M[onsieu]r Colonne plusieurs de mes partitions avec les parties séparées. Jurgenson vous les expédiera demain et V[ou]s aurez la complaisance de les envoyer à Colonne (Aix les Bains (Savoie) Chalet Adrien, Route de Marlioz). Comme ce maestro est rempli des meilleurs intentions à mon égard, – j'ai cru qu'il etait juste de faire ce qu'il m'avait demandé. J'ai oublié de dire hier à Jurgenson de V[ou]s envoyer le manuscript de la Doumka (et je V[ou]s en demande pardon) mais je lui ecrirai ce soir rentré chez moi.

Veuillez, cher ami, être l'interprête auprès de Mme Mackar de mes meilleurs sentiments et ne doutez jamais de l'amitié sincère de Votre tout dévoué

P. Tschaïkovsky

P.S. Veuillez commander 2 douzaines de celles de mes photographies ou je suis debout, – ce sont à mon goût les plus reussies. Les autres une douzaine de chaque pose. Salutations amicale[s] à Charles et Henri Condemine.

Moscow 22 June/4 July 1886

My dear friend!

So here I am: I got back to my home country several days ago. The journey proceeded in the best possible conditions. The child was very well-behaved, and I didn't have to suffer much because, fortunately, he is the sweetest child in the world [1]. After spending two days in Petersburg I went home [to Maydanovo], but now I have come to Moscow to attend to all kinds of business matters. I have spoken to Jurgenson regarding the convention which is to be annulled. Like you, he feels that it would be perfectly fair to maintain it in force, but our Government can only benefit from the annulment of a treaty which in its time was concluded in order to flatter Emperor Napoleon III, and which, now that you are governed by Mr Floquet and his associates, has but very few chances of continuing to be upheld [2]. Nevertheless, I promise you that I shall do all I can in order to try to get this convention to be renewed, for it is based on fairness and common interests.

I have received from Mme Reutlinger the proofs of my photographs [3]. All the poses have come out perfectly well, and I would very much like to have a dozen of each. So could you, dear friend, please order from Mme Reutlinger the number of prints I want and send the whole lot to P. Jurgenson, to be forwarded to P. Tchaikovsky. Could you also pay the amount indicated on Mme Reutlinger's bill and send it to me, and I will immediately settle up with you. Did I tell you that I had promised to give Monsieur Colonne several of my scores with orchestral parts for free? Jurgenson will send them off to you tomorrow: would you be so kind as to forward them to Colonne (Aix-les-Bains (Savoie) Chalet Adrien, Route de Marlioz). Since this maestro is full of the best intentions with regard to me, I felt it was only fair to do as he had asked [4]. I forgot to tell Jurgenson yesterday that he should send you the manuscript of the Dumka (for which I beg your pardon), but I shall write to him tonight when I have got back home [5].

Could you, dear friend, act as the mouthpiece of my best regards before Mme Mackar [6]; I ask you likewise never to doubt of the sincere friendship of your wholeheartedly devoted

P. Tchaikovsky.

P.S. Could you please order 2 dozens of those photographs of me in which I am standing – those are the ones that to my liking came out best [7]. As for the others, one dozen of each pose. My friendly greetings to Charles and Henri Condemine [8].

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky and his sister-in-law Olga (the wife of his elder brother, Nikolay) had left Paris together on 12/24 June 1886, taking with them to Russia little Georges-Léon—the illegitimate son of Tchaikovsky's niece Tatyana Davydova who was born in Paris and had been looked after by a French family in the suburb of Bicêtre for the first three years of his life. The boy was to be adopted by Nikolay and Olga , who had no children of her own, although the secret of his birth was still to be kept from Tatyana's parents. Various entries in the diary which he kept during the long train journey to Saint Petersburg reflect Tchaikovsky's touching concern and affection for the child: 13/25 June: "It was more fortunate and calm that I expected. Cologne. Tea. G. slept twice in the course of the trip and the second time a good deal. Very sweet but too high-spirited [...] Hanover. Was obliged to spend some time alone with him; create fairy tales; talk nonsense"; 14/26 June: "Coffee. G. slept well. [...] Am writing a telegram while it is quiet alongside: must be G. fell asleep again. [...] Verzhbolovo. Dinner. G. suddenly fell asleep at dinner. Carried him while he was sleeping to a small ladies' compartment. Well, at last in Russia! This evening both Olga and I were unusually tired"; 15/27 June: "A long drawn-out day. Was obliged to entertain much and fuss with Georgie. By the way, I gratified him particularly by inventing a slapping game [...] Saint Petersburg, finally. Kolya met us. [...] Géorges looked very happy and played as though Bicêtre and geo-tilliez [?] never existed. After conversing and putting G. to bed, went to have supper at Palkin's restaurant. A white night! Strange, but beautiful..." Over the next two days in Saint Petersburg Tchaikovsky spent a lot of time with Géorges and his adoptive parents. Thus, on 16/28 June the composer noted in his diary: "He became angry at Olya after dinner and cried convulsively in my arms. When I was leaving, he cried bitterly and wanted me to stay". The following day, Tchaikovsky attended the boy's christening (he was given the Russian name Georgy) and bought some pictures and toys for him which he gave to him that evening, shortly before his departure for Maydanovo: "Dinner at Kolya's. G. was very pleased with his toys, especially with the little soldiers entering the fortress. Left him secretly to avoid tears". All diary entries quoted from Wladimir Lakond (transl.), The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 88–90 [back]
  2. Under Napoleon III, who reigned as emperor from 1852 to 1870, the French goverment promulgated the International Copyright Act (in March 1852) which granted to foreign authors (including artists and composers) equal rights of property in their productions as those which had hitherto been enjoyed by French authors only. Over the following years France concluded bilateral treaties with a number of countries (including Russia) which also agreed to give such protection to French authors within their own borders. In July 1886 the Russian government decided to annul this convention with France and, moreover, not to sign the Berne Convention which most other European countries adopted that year. Charles Thomas Floquet (1828–1896) was a French radical politician who had vigorously opposed Napoleon III's regime, and who at the time of the above letter was President of the Chamber of Deputies [back]
  3. The photographic atelier founded in Paris in 1850 by the German-born Charles Reutlinger (1816–1880) was one of the most prestigious in the city, and many famous artists, writers, and musicians had their pictures taken there. After Charles's death the studio was run by his widow and his brother Émile. Tchaikovsky had himself photographed there on 9/21 June 1886, as we learn from his diary: "Left at nine-thirty o'clock and went to have some photographs taken at Reutlinger's. The proprietess (a German) has a torn lip. Friendly gentleman photographer. Six poses." Quoted from The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 87. These portraits are listed as nos. 50 to 54 in the Catalogue of Photographs [back]
  4. Vladimir Fédorov cites a brief extract from a letter which Colonne sent to Mackar from Aix-les-Bains on 10/22 July 1886: "... my last Russian concert—the Marche miniature was encored", and which shows that Colonne had performed Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 1 (or at least excerpts from it) at Aix. See Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 56, note 4  [back]
  5. Rather than waiting until he got back to Maydanovo that evening, Tchaikovsky in fact wrote Jurgenson a letter while still in Moscow, requesting him to send the original manuscript of the Dumka to Mackar (see letter 2981). Although Jurgenson was the first to publish that piano piece, Tchaikovsky had written it specially for his new French publisher and wanted to present him with the autograph as a token of his gratitude. Jurgenson, however, ignored the composer's repeated requests and held on to the manuscript [back]
  6. Mackar's wife, Valérie. In 1888, Tchaikovsky would dedicate to her one of the prints made by the Hamburg photographer E. Bieber on 6/18 January 1888. He wrote on it the following inscription: "Madame Valérie Mackar souvenir affectueux" and sketched three bars from the Andante cantabile of his String Quartet No. 1. See Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 94. The portrait in question is Photo 60 [back]
  7. For example, Photo 53 [back]
  8. In the first publication of this letter by Vladimir Fédorov the last sentence was given as: "Salutations amicale[s] à Charles et Henri Couder... [fin illisible]". However, the editors ofП. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIII (1971), were able to decipher the last few letters in the photocopy sent to the Klin Museum by the BnF, and established that the surname was "Condemine". Henri Condemine was a pianist whom Tchaikovsky had met at Mackar's house in Paris that summer. He is mentioned a few times in the composer's diary. Charles was his brother [back]