Letter 3031

Date 18/30 August 1886
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. 56
Советская музыка (1970), No. 9, p. 64 (Russian translation)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIII (1971), p. 435.

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
18/30 Août 1886

Mon cher ami!

Je V[ou]s avais ecrit que j'avais commencé les traductions de mes romances et effectivement il y en avait deux toutes faites. Mais ensuite, voyant que l'opéra m'absorbait trop et qu'il se passerait beaucoup de temps avant que le tout soit prêt, — je me suis adressé à une pauvre jeune fille qui justement me demandait un travail quelconque à faire et lui ai confié la tâche de traduire tout ce dont V[ou]s avez besoin. Le travail est prêt et demain je V[ou]s l'expédie. On ne peut pas dire que la traduction soit parfaite et que cette demoiselle manie le français comme une vraie française ; — mais enfin le poète que V[ou]s chargerez de mettre cela en vers aura une traduction très juste et très conscientieusement faite, et c'est, il me semble, tout ce qu'il faut.

J'ai passé un été assez triste car j'ai été souvent malade. Mais du reste, il n'y a rien de grave, — ce n'était que des refroidissement perpétuels que j'attrapais tantôt en restant trop longtemps dans l'eau de la rivière, tantôt à cause à cause de courant d'airs dont je ne me garantissais pas assez. Maintenant cela va tout à fait bien.

J'espère, mon cher ami, que V[ou]s allez bien et que Madame Mackar se porte bien aussi. Saluez la bien de ma part, ainsi que les Condemines quand V[ou]s les verrez.

Je V[ou]s serre bien cordialement la main.

Votre dévoué ami,

P. Tschaïkovsky

En parcourant la traduction j'ai remarqué bien de fautes d'orthographe. Ce n'est rien, n'est-ce pas ?

18/30 August 1886

My dear friend!

I wrote to you last time [1] that I had started work on translating my romances, and right enough I had by then done two of them. But then, seeing that I was becoming so engrossed in my opera and that it would take a long time before everything was ready, I got in touch with a poor young girl who had just happened to ask me for work of some kind that she could do, and I entrusted her with the task of translating everything that you need [2]. The job is now complete, and tomorrow I'll send it to you. It can't be said that her translation is perfect or that this young lady has a command of French equal to that of a true Frenchwoman, but, still, the poet whom you engage to turn this into verse will have a very precise and very conscientiously done translation to work from, and that, as I see it, is all that is required [3].

I have had a rather sad summer, because I have been frequently ill. I should add, though, that it was nothing serious: it was simply that I kept catching some perpetual chills, be it because I'd stay in the river too long when bathing, be it because of draughts which I failed to take sufficient precautions against when indoors. Now I am perfectly fine, however.

I hope, my dear friend, that you are all right, and that Madame Mackar [4] is also well. Give her my regards, and likewise to the Condemines [5] when you see them.

I shake your hand most cordially.

Your devoted friend,

P. Tchaikovsky

While looking through the translation I noticed quite a lot of spelling mistakes. That doesn't matter, isn't that so?

Notes and References

  1. This letter to Mackar has not come to light.
  2. Tchaikovsky entrusted the task of producing a prose translation into French of his various sets of songs to a certain Nina Valeryanovna Kondratyeva, who worked as a proofreader for Jurgenson's firm.
  3. Mackar would eventually engage the poet Paul Collin to turn these prose translations of Tchaikovsky's romances into verse, but the publisher was not happy with the final product, as he himself informed Tchaikovsky in a letter from Paris on 15/27 October 1888. Collin's free translations of the texts of some of Tchaikovsky's songs have survived in the archives at Klin. It seems that these translations were mismatched with the music. Nevertheless,Mackar did publish a few of Tchaikovsky's songs as translated by Collin (though the poet seems to have had to revise his original versions). See Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 160 and p. 165, note 28.
  4. 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 appears as Photo 60 in our Catalogue of Photographs.
  5. The brothers Henri and Charles Condemine who were friends of Mackar's. Tchaikovsky had met the pianist Henri Condemine at Mackar's house in Paris earlier that summer.