Letter 3204

Date 23 March/4 April 1887
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. 60–61
Советская музыка (1970), No. 9, p. 65–66 (Russian translation)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIV (1974), p. 67–68

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Maïdanowo, 23 Mars/4 Avril 1887

Mon cher ami !

Voici comment j'ai projeté la repartition de mon printemps et de mon été. D'abord il faut absolument que je termine l'instrumentation de mon opera qui est deja à l'etude au Thétre Impérial de Petersbourg. Tant que je n'aurai pas mené à bout cette tâche, – je n'aurai pas l'esprit et le cœur libres de soucis et cependant c'est ce qu'il faut pour que mon voyage à l'étranger fasse du bien à mon etat nerveux. Surtout il faut être complètement calme d'esprit et depourvu de soucis pour la cure de Vichy qui est devenue tout à fait necessaire pour mon estomac, qui commence à m'inquiéter sérieusement. Donc voila ce que j'ai décidé. Je resterai ici une quinzaine de jours et terminerai le deuxième acte de mon opera. Puis je m'en vais comme l'année passée à Tiflis (Caucase) ou je pourrai tranquillement achever mon travail. Puis, toujours comme l'année passée, j'irai par mer en France, à Paris et de là à Vichy. Il est plus que probable que je n'aurai pas le plaisir de Vous serrer la main avant l'époque du Grand Prix et même plutôt ce sera après. Je sais bien que ce n'est pas la bonne saison pour que ma présence à Paris ait son côté utile, mais n'oubliez pas[,] mon cher ami, que je passerai à Paris la majeure partie de l'hivers. A notre entrevue prochaine nous causerons de toute espèce de plans que j'ai pour la saison prochaine. Maintenant que je suis devenu chef d'orchestre, il faut absolument que nous arrangions un concert dans le quel je conduirai mes œuvres moi même. A propos. Le concert de Petersbourg a été peut-être le plus beau jour de ma vie d'artiste. C'etait un vrai triomphe. On prétend que je suis un très bon chef d'orchestre. Mr César Cui (qui me déteste cordialement) n'a pu s'empêcher d'ecrire dans son compte rendu à propos de ce concert que j'ai conduit l'orchestre d'une manière parfaite et que j'ai pour cela un grand talent. Je ne puis V[ou]s dire combien je suis heureux d'avoir pu vaincre ma timidité maladive. A revoir[,] mon cher et excellent ami

P. Tschaïkovsky

Mille choses aimables à M[ada]me Mackar. Je désirerai avoir de Vos nouvelles avant mon depart pour le Caucase. Ecrivez moi

Maydanovo, 23 March/4 April 1887

My dear friend!

Here is how I have mapped out my schedule for the spring and summer. First of all, it is essential that I complete the orchestration of my opera, which is already being put into rehearsal at the Imperial Theatre in Petersburg. Until I have concluded this task my mind and heart will not be free of worries, and yet it is precisely this which is necessary for my travelling abroad to be beneficial to my nervous state. Above all, I must be completely calm inwardly and free of worries before I can undergo a cure at Vichy—something that has become utterly essential for my stomach, which is beginning to trouble me seriously. So this is what I have decided. I shall stay here for a fortnight and finish the second act of my opera. Then I shall go, as I did last year, to Tiflis (the Caucasus), where I will be able to complete my work in peace and quiet. After that, again like last year, I shall travel to France by sea, heading first for Paris and from there to Vichy [1]. It is very likely that I shall not have the pleasure of shaking your hand before the Grand Prix [2], and indeed it will probably be after that [3]. I do realize that this is not the best time of the year for my presence in Paris to be of practical use, but do not forget, my dear friend, that I shall be spending most of the winter in Paris [4]. At our next meeting we shall discuss the various plans I have for the coming new season. Now that I have become a conductor, it is essential that we organize a concert at which I myself conduct my own works. By the way: the concert in Petersburg was perhaps the finest day of my artistic career [5]. It was a genuine triumph. People are saying that I am a very good conductor. Mr César Cui (who detests me heartily) could not help writing, in his review of the concert, that I had conducted the orchestra perfectly, and that this was something I had great talent for. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have succeeded in overcoming my morbid shyness. Goodbye, my dear and excellent friend

P. Tchaikovsky

A thousand kind regards for Madame Mackar [6]. I should like to have some news from you before my departure for the Caucasus. Do write to me.

Notes and References

  1. As in 1886, Tchaikovsky did visit Tiflis again that spring and stayed with his brother Anatoly and his family, but at the end of his stay in the Caucasus he did not take a ship to France as he had done the previous year. Instead, on 7/19 June 1887 he set sail from Batum to Odessa, and from there travelled by train to Aachen in order to visit, and give moral support to, his ailing friend Nikolay Kondratyev who was undergoing medical treatment there. He arrived in Aachen on 15/27 July and would stay there until 25 August/6 September (with only a brief visit to Paris from 2/14 to 4/16 August), after which he made his way back to Russia.
  2. The Grand Prix de Paris, the most prestigious horse-race in France at the time. It was held in July.
  3. On 4/16 August 1887, the last day of his brief stay in Paris that summer, Tchaikovsky managed to pay his respects to Mackar (who had been away when he called the previous day), as he noted in his diary: "At Mackar's. Found him in. His joy and kisses. Conversation". Quoted from The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 198.
  4. Tchaikovsky abandoned this plan, partly because he soon started making arrangements for his first European conducting tour which would get underway in mid/late December 1887 and lasted until March 1888.
  5. On 5/17 March 1887 Tchaikovsky conducted a concert of his own works under the auspices of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Society. It featured the first performance in the imperial capital of the Suite No. 1, Kuma's arioso from Act I of The Enchantress (sung by Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova), the Dance of the Tumblers from that opera, the Andante and Valse from the Serenade for String Orchestra, the fantasia Francesca da Rimini, various solo piano pieces (played by Dmitry Klimov), three romances (sung by Panayeva-Kartsova), and the festival overture The Year 1812.
  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 appears as Photograph No. 60 in our Catalogue of Photographs.