Letter 3933a

Date 12/24 September 1889
Addressed to Jules Massenet
Where written Moscow
Language French
Autograph Location unknown [1]
Publication Tchaikovsky Research Bulletin No. 1 (February 2011), p. 46 (incomplete; with English translation)
Чайковский. Новые материалы к творческой биографии (2013), p. 399 (incomplete; with Russian translation, p. 400)

Text and Translation

This incomplete text is based on the extracts published in Sotheby's 2017 auction catalogue [2] and Baudoin's 1938 sale catalogue [3], which may contain differences in formatting and content from Tchaikovsky's original letter.

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
[...] À notre dernière entrevue, je vous avais prié de fixer définitivement la date du concert que vous conduirez, selon votre promesse, à la Société Impériale Musicale Russe de Moscou. Préoccupé par les répétitions d'"Esclarmonde", incertain, comme vous me le disiez, sur le sort que l'avenir réservait à cet opera, vous aviez voulu remettre à plus tard une réponse décisive à mes sollicitations [...] Nous désirons pour plusieurs raisons que vous acceptiez ce jour-là [...] et depuis longtemps la direction a réservé ce jour-là pour vous [...] Je vous prie seulement de ne pas retirer votre promesse et de venue dans tous les cas. Vous m'avez donné l'autorisation d'annoncer votre arrivée à Moscou au public ; on vous attend avec impatience et notre position vis-à-vis du public muscovite serait bien fausse si son attente ne se réalisait pas. De grâce, venez, cher maître! Je vous assure que cela n'est pas aussi fatiguant ni aussi difficile que l'on se l'imagine. Sur ce je Vous serre bien cordialement la main et Vous prie de croire à ma haute estime et ma fidele de votre,
P. Tchaïkovsky

[...] At our last meeting I asked you to give a definitive date for the concert which, as you promised, you will conduct at the Imperial Russian Musical Society of Moscow [4]. Since you were then preoccupied with the rehearsals for "Esclarmonde", and, as you told me, also uncertain as to the fate which the future held in store for this opera, you expressed the wish to postpone a final response to my requests until sometime later [5] [...] For several reasons we would like you to accept that date [4 April 1890] [...] and the board of directors has long since booked that date for you [...] I beg you only not to go back on your promise and to come in any case. You authorized me to announce to the public that you would be coming to Moscow; you are expected there impatiently, and our situation with regard to the Muscovite public would be quite awkward if its expectations were to fail to come true. Please do come, dear maestro! I assure you that all this is neither as exhausting nor as difficult as you may imagine. With this I shake you warmly by the hand and beg you to believe in my high esteem and faithfulness to you,
P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Auctioned on 26 October 2017 by Sotheby's, London, and previously on 8 December 1938 by Baudoin, Paris.
  2. See https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/music-manuscripts-private-collection-l17413/lot.135.html
  3. See Lettres autographes et correspondances diverses adressées principalement au maître et à M[ada]me Massenet. Vente Henri Baudoin, Paris, hôtel Drouot, 8 décembre 1938 (item no. 23; incomplete)/ A scan of the relevant page in this catalogue was kindly provided by Jean-Christophe Branger of the Université Jean Monnet in Saint-Etienne, who also mentions this letter in the introduction to his book Manon de Jules Massenet, ou, Le crépuscule de l'opéra-comique (Metz, 1999), p. 10, note 8.
  4. Earlier that year, during his second conducting tour of Western Europe, Tchaikovsky had sought to help the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society (which had recently lost its principal conductor, Max Erdmannsdörfer) by inviting, in the name of the society, several prominent European musicians and composers to conduct concerts there during the 1889–90 season. One of these composers was Massenet, who had written to Tchaikovsky to accept this invitation (in a letter that has not come down to us), and to whom Tchaikovsky had in turn replied from Dresden on 5/17 February 1889 (see Letter 3787a). A few weeks later, when his concert tour took him to Paris, Tchaikovsky had met his French colleague for the first time, and on 21 March/2 April he had reported the following to his publisherJurgenson: "I have seen Massenet several times; he is very flattered and glad to come to Russia. He still can't give an exact date, but would prefer to come in the spring [of 1890]" (see Letter 3826). In the end, though, despite Tchaikovsky's entreaties in the above letter, Massenet did not keep his promise to come to Russia and conduct a concert there.
  5. The sentences that follow are paraphrased in the auction catalogue containing extracts of this letter: Esclarmonde had turned out to be a great success Massenet's opera was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 14 May 1889 [N.S.]; it was now essential to know when Massenet would be coming to Russia; would 4 April 1890 be a convenient date for him?