Letter 3569

Date 16/28 May 1888
Addressed to Désirée Artôt-Padilla
Where written Frolovskoye
Language French
Autograph Location Moscow (Russia): Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (ф. 905)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 372–373
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIV (1974), p. 431–432

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Kline, près Moscou
16/28 Mai 1888 г[ода]

Bien chère et respectée Madame!

Votre lettre est datée du 14 Avril et c'est aujourd'hui seulement que je la reçois. Je ne saurai expliquer ce retard que quand j'aurai vu M[ademoise]lle Volpiansky, or je n'ai été à Moscou qu'en passant il y a un mois et il est probable que je ne la verrai que dans une quinzaine de jours, car je suis obligé d'aller à Pétersbourg avant de pouvoir me rendre à Moscou. Vous pouvez être sûre, Madame, que tout ce que je pourrai faire, je le ferai. Je commencerai ce soir par charger M[onsieur] Jurgenson d'aller trouver M[ademoise]lle Volpiansky et la demander quel genre de service je pourrai lui rendre et dès qu'il m'aura répondu je commencerai mes démarches. Il faut Vous prévenir cependant, que la saison est bien avancée, que le Directeur des Théâtres est parti, que les Théâtres sont fermés et qu'il y a peu de choses à faire en ce moment. Enfin nous verrons. Je Vous promets encore une fois de ne rien négliger pour Vous être agréable en prônant dans la mesure de mes moyens Votre élève.

Vous me supposiez à Londres au moment ou Vous m'écriviez, mais depuis longtemps je n'y étais plus. Je n'ai pris part qu'à un seul concert dans cette ville : c'était le 22 Mars et le lendemain je suis parti directement pour Tiflis qui m'a paru un vrai paradis après les brouillards de Londres. J'y suis resté 3 semaines ; je suis allé ensuite à Pétersbourg pour remercier l'Empereur, qui, comme Vous savez, m'a accordé une pension viagère de 3000 r[ubles]. Depuis lors me voilà enfin dans mon petit réduit où je commence à travailler et à reprendre des forces, car mon petit voyage m'a bien fatigué. J'ai conservé cependant le plus agréable souvenir de mes succès et tous les bons moments qu'il m'est arrivé de passer pendant ces longues pérégrinations. Sans vouloir Vous adresser une flatterie banale, je Vous dirai, chère et bonne Madame, que le souvenir de la soirée délicieuse au 17 de la Landgrafstrasse sera éternellement gravée en lettres d'or dans ma mémoire et que j'espère bien m'y retrouver encore dans la saison prochaine.

Bien certainement je ferai le Lied, que Vous m'avez fait l'honneur de me demander ; seulement permettez, Madame, de ne pas trop me presser car j'ai maintenant un grand travail à faire et je pourrai composer quelque chose de digne de Vous seulement quand j'aurai terminé cette tâche difficile. Pas plus tard que le mois d'Août le Lied sera fait.

Recevez, Madame, l'assurance de mon affection respectueuse et inaltérable. Merci encore et encore pour les marques de Votre inappréciable amitié pour moi. Mille salutations à Votre bon et excellent mari.

P. Tchaikovsky

Klin, near Moscow
16/28 May 1888

Most dear and respected Madame!

Your letter is dated 14 April, and yet it is only today that I have received it. I will not be able to explain this delay until I have seen Miss Volpyanskaya – you see, I have only been to Moscow while passing through a month ago, and it is likely that I shall not be able to meet her until after a fortnight because I am obliged to go to Petersburg before I can come to Moscow. You can rest assured, Madame, that I shall do everything I can [1]. I shall start this evening by instructing Mr Jurgenson to go and look for Miss Volpyanskaya and to ask her what kind of service I can render her, and as soon as he has sent me his reply, I shall commence my efforts on her behalf. I must warn you, though, that the season is coming to an end, that the Director of Theatres has left, that the Theatres are closed, and that there is very little to do at this moment. Anyway, we shall see. I promise you once again to leave no stone unturned in seeking to oblige you by commending your pupil as far as my resources allow me to [2].

You assumed I was in London at the time you wrote to me, but in fact I had already left there a long time ago. I took part in only one concert in that city: that was on 22 March, and the following day I left immediately for Tiflis, which seemed like a true paradise to me after the London fog [3]. I stayed there for 3 weeks, after which I went to Petersburg in order to thank the Emperor, who, as you know, has granted me a lifetime annuity of 3000 rubles [4]. And it is after all that that I am now finally in my little refuge where I am beginning to work and to replenish my energies (because my little journey has quite worn me out). Still, I have retained the most agreeable memories of my successes and of all the nice moments I was able to experience during these long wanderings. Without wishing to pay you a banal flattery, I should like to tell you, dear and kind Madame, that the delightful soirée at No. 17, Landgrafstraße, will forever be etched in letters of gold in my memory, and that I very much hope to come there again during the next season [5].

I shall most certainly write the Lied which you have done me the honour of requesting from me; only you must allow me, Madame, not to hurry too much, because I now have a big job to do and I shall only be able to compose something worthy of you once I have finished this difficult task. The Lied will be ready by August at the latest [6].

Please accept, Madame, this assurance of my respectful and unchanging affection. I thank you once again for these tokens of your inestimable friendship for me [7]. A thousand greetings to your kind and splendid husband [8].

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. In her letter from Berlin on 2/14 April 1888 Désirée Artôt-Padilla had told Tchaikovsky that one of her pupils, Darya Nikolayevna Volpyanskaya (b. 1861; stage name Doroteya Mirskaya), would be coming to Moscow soon, and she asked the composer to assist her as best as he could. It seems that Artôt had given her pupil this letter to take with her to Moscow in the hope that Tchaikovsky would be there at the same time and that Miss Volpyanskaya could then pass it on to him. However, Tchaikovsky had only passed through Moscow briefly in late March/early April while on his way home to Frolovskoye after his holiday in Tiflis (a three weeks' holiday he took immediately after the conclusion of his first European conducting tour). Artôt's letter has been published in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 193.
  2. In her reply to this letter shortly afterwards (dated 21 May/2 June 1888), Artôt said that she wanted to set Tchaikovsky's mind at rest regarding Miss Volpyanskaya and explained that the young singer had been engaged by the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre for two years, with her debut scheduled for September. She asked Tchaikovsky to go and listen to her when he next came to Moscow, and if her voice was to his liking, to arrange for her to sing at one of his concerts. This letter by Artôt has also been published in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 193 – 194.
  3. In her letter of 2/14 April 1888, Artôt had written: "I am told that you are currently in London—may the fog not be too heavy for you there!" As Tchaikovsky explains above, his concert at the Saint James's Hall in London had taken place on 10/22 March. However, he did not actually leave England on the following day, but, rather, the day after that, on 12/24 March, travelling, via Vienna, to southern Russia and from there to Tiflis, which he reached already on 26 March/7 April.
  4. Tchaikovsky found out about Alexander III's generous award while at Lübeck shortly after the start of his European conducting tour. On 2/14 January 1888 he noted in his diary there: "On returning [to the hotel], found a telegram from Vsevolozhsky. The Tsar gave me a pension. Of course, I am deeply happy and glad, but I am—what shall I say, too grateful, i.e. I am somehow conscience stricken, as though it were undeserved..." — quoted The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 223.
  5. While at Berlin, on 23 January/4 February 1888, Tchaikovsky had met and spoken to Artôt again for the first time since their engagement in Moscow twenty years earlier. On 26 January/8 February, he attended a soirée at her house, which he recorded briefly in his diary: "With them [the Griegs] at Artôt's evening reception. Singing. It was enjoyable. Festive supper". Quoted from The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 229. In Chapter XII of his Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888, completed not long before he wrote the above letter to Artôt, Tchaikovsky had described at greater length how he had accepted the invitation from "Madame Artôt, who is so vividly remembered by all who saw her (especially by audiences in Moscow). This singer of genius has been living in Berlin for some time now, and she is greatly esteemed both by the court and the public in general. Her work as a singing teacher is proving to be highly successful, too. Together with Grieg, I spent an evening at Madame Artôt's house, the recollection of which will never be erased from my memory. Both the personality and the artistry of this singer are as irresistibly enchanting as ever".
  6. In her letter of 2/14 April 1888, Artôt had written: "I am impatiently awaiting the lied which you promised me, and it goes without saying that, though my voice is deficient, I shall put all my soul into it". The "big job" which Tchaikovsky undertook that summer was the Symphony No. 5, which he started composing at Frolovskoye around that time. However, after completing the symphony in mid/late August he began scoring his rough sketches for the overture-fantasia Hamlet, and it was not until early/mid October that he set about the Six French Songs, Op. 65, that were to be dedicated to Désirée Artôt-Padilla.
  7. Thus, in her letter of 2/14 April 1888, Artôt had written among other things: "We have read about your Parisian triumphs, and all your friends here broke into applause with all their heart and hands. We had hoped to see you here again on your return journey to Moscow, but, alas, like sister Anna [in Charles Perrault's folk-tale Bluebeard] we saw nothing". See Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 193; p. 32, note 2.
  8. The Spanish baritone Mariano Padilla y Ramos (1842 – 1906), whom Artôt had married in September 1869, without apparently giving Tchaikovsky any warning earlier that year that she was about to break the engagement they had entered into in Moscow in December 1868.