Letter 3687a

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 5/17 October 1888
Addressed to Adolf Čech
Where written Frolovskoye
Language German
Autograph Location Morlanwelz (Belgium): Musée royal de Mariemont [1]
Publication Gérard Pinsart, Ces musiciens qui ont fait la musique: autographes et documents musicaux du XVIe au XXe siècle (Morlanwelz, Musée royal de Mariemont, 1985), p. 208-210 (in French translation, with facsimile)
Malou Haine, 400 lettres de musiciens: au Musée royal de Mariemont' (Liège, 1995), p. 417 (with French translation, p. 416)
Tchaikovsky Research Bulletin No. 1 (February 2011), p. 25-26 (with English translation, p. 26-27)
Чайковский. Новые материалы к творческой биографии (2013), p. 411-412 (with Russian translation, p. 412-414)

Text and Translation

German text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Kline, bei Moskau
5 / 17 October

Hochgeehrter Herr Capellmeister!

Ihre freundliche Zeilen habe ich gleich bekommen und beeile mich Ihnen gleich meinen wärmsten Dank zu ausdrücken für alles was Sie für mich schon gemacht haben und machen werden! Es ist mir besonders angenehm dass Sie eine so gute Meinung von meiner Oper haben!

Seitdem ich Ihnen geschrieben habe, haben Sie die Sache ein bischen verändert. Man möchte mich in Petersburg in einem grossen Concerte dirigiren lassen (am 24 / 12 October) und in Warschau und anderen Städten Concerte mit meiner Mitwirkung arrangiren. Ich glaube sogar dass mein Vertreter Herr Zet aus Petersburg hat schon in Prag geschrieben ob mann nicht Onéguine bis Januar aufschieben könnte. Aber, obgleich es mir auch sehr lieb wäre nur erst im Januar nach Prag zu gehen, aber bitte Sie sehr sich nicht damit zu genieren. Machen Sie es so wie es Ihnen am bequemsten ist. Gewiss wenn Sie anders nich können, ich komme zum 20 November. Aber bitte, lieber Herr Capellmeister mir gleich einen Antwort geben. Von Petersburg sind schon die Costumbilder und die Mise en scène nach Prag geschickt.

Ich wünsche dass die Oper bei Ihnen mit den Petersburger Streichen geht. Dieselben sind alle von mir selbst, dem Rathe Naprawniks folgend, gemacht worden. Bitte, Herr Capellmeister, wenn Sie Frau Čerwinka-Rieger sehen, fragen Sie sie, ob sie meinen Brief erhalten hat. Ich habe sie nämlich um eine sehr wichtige Sache gebeten (ein Vorwort zu Onéguine) und möchte sehr wissen ob sie die Güte haben wird meine Bitte zu erfüllen.

Lassen Sie mich Ihnen noch einmal herzlich danken, mein hochgeehrter Herr und lieber Freund!

Ihr ergebenster,

P. Čajkovsky

Klin, near Moscow
5 / 17 October [1888]

Highly respected Herr Kapellmeister!

I have just received your friendly lines and hasten to convey to you immediately my most fervent gratitude for everything that you have already done, and will be doing, for me! It is particularly gratifying to me that you have such a high opinion of my opera![2]

Things have changed slightly since I last wrote to you [3]. There are plans to have me conduct at a big concert in Petersburg (on 24 / 12 October), as well as to arrange concerts with my participation in Warsaw and other cities [4]. I even think that my agent Mr Zet [5] in Petersburg has already sent a letter to Prague enquiring whether it might not be possible to postpone Onegin until January. However, even though I myself would prefer to come to Prague in January, I beg you not to feel constrained by this. Do what is most convenient for you. If everything else is impossible for you, I shall definitely come for the 20th of November. However, dear Herr Kapellmeister, please do give me an immediate reply [6]. The sketches of the costumes and the mise en scène have already been dispatched from Petersburg to Prague.

I should like the opera to be staged in your city with the Petersburg cuts. These were all made by me personally, following Nápravník's advice [7]. Please, Herr Capellmeister, when you see Frau Červinková-Riegrová, would you ask her if she has received my letter? For I have asked her to do me a very important favour (to write a Foreword to Onegin), and I would very much like to know if she will be so kind as to fulfil my request [8].

Let me thank you cordially once again, highly respected Sir and dear friend!

Your most devoted,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Acquired from the private collection of Fritz Donebauer (Berlin), 6 April 1908 [N.S.].
  2. Tchaikovsky is replying here to a letter written to him by Adolf Čech in Prague on 11 October 1888 [N.S.]. In this letter Čech had in turn replied to an earlier letter from the composer (Letter 3676 of 22 September/3 October 1888), explaining that, as requested by Tchaikovsky himself, Yevgeny Onegin was to be staged in Prague on 30 November 1888 [N.S.], and that he would soon be able to begin the rehearsals and "to devote myself entirely to your remarkable opera, which has completely (please don't take this for flattery) taken hold of my heart". It had been Tchaikovsky's own wish (when prompted by František Šubert during his first visit to the city earlier that year) to conduct Onegin in Prague (the first performance of this opera outside Russia), but the opening night would in fact take place six days later than planned (i.e. on 6 December 1888 [N.S.]). Čech's letter has been published (in Russian translation) in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 188–189.
  3. See Letter 3676 to Adolf Čech, 22 September/3 October 1888.
  4. Tchaikovsky would in fact conduct at two major concerts in Saint Petersburg that autumn before his departure for Prague: a concert of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Society on 5/17 November 1888, whose programme was drawn exclusively from his own works, and which, among other things, featured the premiere of the Symphony No. 5; and the second half of the Russian Musical Society's third symphonic concert of the season on 12/24 November 1888, which featured the premiere of the overture-fantasia Hamlet and the second performance of the Symphony No. 5. Tchaikovsky's second concert tour as a conductor of his works, which again took him to various Western European cities, did not begin until late January/early February 1889. Warsaw was not included in the itinerary, and he did not conduct a concert there until January 1892.
  5. Julius Zet (in Russia: Yuly Tset) was for many years secretary to the pianist Sophie Menter, and it was through her that he met Tchaikovsky. In 1888 he became the composer's representative in his negotiations with Western European concert agents. Tchaikovsky thought very highly of Zet's personal qualities, but the latter did not have a good eye for business and many of his ambitious enterprises fell through. He left Russia in 1891 and never went back again. See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 3 (1997), p. 229, n. 1.
  6. Adolf Čech replied to this letter already on 22 October 1888 [N.S.], and explained that after receiving it he had immediately gone to see František Šubert to discuss the possibility of postponing the production of Yevgeny Onegin at the Prague National Theatre, but it had turned out that it could at most be postponed by a few days, and not until January 1889, since Antonín Dvořák's new opera The Jacobin was to be produced there at the start of the coming new year. Čech's letter has been published (in Russian translation) in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 189, but note 3 accompanying this publication states incorrectly that it is a reply to Tchaikovsky's letter of 22 September/3 October (Letter 3676). This mistake is due to the fact that the editors of Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), and also those of the Soviet collected edition of Tchaikovsky's correspondence (1959–1981), were unaware of the existence of the above letter to Adolf Čech of 5/17 October, which was first published in 1985 (see the details above).
  7. See, for example, Letter 3674 to Eduard Nápravník, 21 September/3 October 1888, in which Tchaikovsky discusses some of the cuts he made for the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre's production of Onegin in October 1884.
  8. Marie Červinková-Riegrová, who had met Tchaikovsky in Prague in February 1888, had recently sent him her translation into Czech of the libretto of Yevgeny Onegin together with a letter dated 15 September 1888 [N.S.]. See Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 187–188. Tchaikovsky thanked her warmly on 12/24 September 1888 (Letter 3668) and also asked her if she could write a short text explaining the significance of Pushkin's verse novel to the Czech public which could be distributed to the audience before performances of the opera in Prague.