Letter 3700

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 17/29 October 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. 373–374
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIV (1974), p. 569–570

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
17/29 Octobre 1888
Kline, près [de] Moscou

Très respectée et chère Madame!

Je viens de délivrer à mon éditeur P. Jurgenson 6 mélodies que j'ai fait pour Vous et dont je Vous prie de vouloir bien agréer la dédicace. J'ai tâché de Vous complaire, Madame, et je crois que toutes les six pourront être chantées par Vous, c'est à dire qu'elles conviennent au diapason actuel de Votre voix. Je voudrais bien que ces mélodies aient le don de Vous plaire, – mais malheureusement je n'en suis nullement sûr, car je dois Vous confesser que j'ai trop travaillé ce dernier temps et il est plus que probable que mes nouvelles compositions soient plutôt le produit d'une volonté de bien faire que d'une vraie inspiration. Et puis on est un peu intimidé quand on compose pour une cantatrice que l'on considère comme la plus grande de toutes les grandes.

Voulez Vous attendre que ces mélodies soient gravées pour en faire connaissance ou bien voulez Vous que j'en fasse faire tout de suite une copie? Veuillez m'en dire un petit mot.

Je me mets à Vos pieds, chère Madame, et Vous prie de transmettre mes salutations chaleureuses à Votre mari.

Au revoir, chère Madame! Je dis au revoir, car il est presque certain que je viendrai cet hiver à Berlin.

Votre bien dévoué,

P. Tschaikovsky

17/29 October 1888
Klin, near Moscow

Most respected and dear Madame!

I have just delivered to my publisher P. Jurgenson six melodies which I have written for you, and the dedication of which I kindly ask you to accept [1]. I have tried to oblige you, Madame, and I think that you should be able to sing all six of them—that is to say, they are suitable for the current range of your voice. I would very much like these melodies to be endowed with the capacity to please you, but unfortunately I am not at all certain of that, since I must confess to you that I have been working too much lately, and it is more than likely that my new compositions are the product of good intentions rather than of true inspiration. Moreover, one cannot but feel a little intimidated when one is composing for a singer whom one considers to be the greatest of all the great.

Would you like to wait until these melodies have been engraved before acquainting yourself with them, or do you want me to have a copy made at once? Please drop me a word or two about this [2].

I throw myself at your feet, dear Madame, and ask you to convey my warm regards to your husband [3].

Until we meet, dear Madame! I say until we meet, because it is almost certain that I shall come to Berlin this winter [4].

Your most devoted,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The Six French Songs, Op. 65, which Tchaikovsky had completed seven days earlier (according to the date on the fair copy of the manuscript), and which he had sent to his publisher the previous day (see Letter 3699 to Pyotr Jurgenson of 16/28 October 1888). During one of his meetings with Désirée Artôt-Padilla in Berlin earlier that year (probably at the reception in her house on 26 January/7 February) she had asked him to write a romance for her.
  2. In her reply from Berlin on 27 October/8 November 1888, Artôt wrote: "I just wanted one song, and there you go and have generously written six for me. There is a saying: 'generous as a king', but one should not forget to add: 'or like an artist'. I am of course very curious to make this new acquaintance, but do not wish to be the cause of excessive inconvenience, so I shall wait until Jurgenson has published them. However, could you then ask him to send them to me here immediately? I shall not say thank-you, but you may rest assured of the joy which it has given me to see how well and quickly you have kept your promise; if only my talent can prove to be on a par with your inspiration". The romances were not issued until the spring of 1889, however, and Artôt did not receive them until August that year. She then wrote to the composer from the seaside resort of Etretat in Normandy, on 9/21 August 1889: "At last, at long last, dear friend, your lieder are in my hands waiting for me to put them into my voice. Of course, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 are superb, but the first Sérénade is adorable and has a charming freshness to it. I also like La déception very much. In short, I am in love with your new children and am proud that you created them while thinking of me". A few months later, on 24 February/4 March 1890, Artôt wrote to Tchaikovsky again from Paris and mentioned the French songs: "I keep falling more and more in love with your six last lieder which are becoming popular, just as I had anticipated". These three letters by Artôt have been published in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 194–196.
  3. The Spanish baritone Mariano Padilla y Ramos (1842–1906).
  4. In her reply to Tchaikovsky on 27 October/8 November 1888 Artôt would write: "There is no need for me to tell you what a feast-day it will be for us to have you in Berlin again. From this very day I demand that you give us one evening—whenever you wish and with whomever you would like to see invited". The following year, during Tchaikovsky's stay in Berlin in February as part of his second European conducting tour, Artôt wrote him a brief note on 10/22 February 1889 to remind him that he had promised to come to supper and a small reception at her house the following evening. Tchaikovsky replied that very day to confirm that he would be coming (see Letter 3790a.