Letter 4

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 7/19 June 1849 [1]
Addressed to Fanny Dürbach
Where written Alapayevsk
Language French
Autograph Location unknown
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 51 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 6 (French text with Russian translation)
П. И. Чайковский. Забытое и новое (1995), p. 45 (Russian translation)
Notes Manuscript copy in: Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve

Text and Translation

Based on a manuscript copy in the Klin House-Museum Archive made by Modest Tchaikovsky, who also supplied the date of the letter. Spelling and punctuation errors in the French text have not been indicated.

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Ma chère Mademoiselle Fanny!

Je vous prie Beaucoup de me pardonner que je ne vous ai écrit si longtemps. Mais comme vous savez que je ne ment pas c'est ma paresse qui en est cause, mais ce n'est pas l'oublie, parceque je vous aime toujours comme je vous aimais avant. Nicolas apprend très bien il a dans la diligense le bal [6] 12 avec une étoile. Caroline est venu hier de Zlataoust et elle vous salue. Ma tante Lise a perdu son mari, elle a été chez nous et hier elle s'est en allé. Ma cousine est chez nous. Aujourd'hui papa est malade de la fièvre. Pola vous baize de tou son coeur. Adieu.

Votre reconnaissant élève

Pierr[e] de Tschaikowsky

My dear Mademoiselle Fanny! [2]

I ask you very much to forgive me for not having written to you for such a long time. But since you know that I do not lie, it is my laziness which is the reason for this, not forgetfulness, because I love you always as I had loved you before. Nikolay is learning very well. In application he has received the mark 12 with a star. Yesterday Caroline arrived from Zlatoust [3], and she sends you greetings. My aunt Lise has lost her husband, she was staying with us and yesterday she left [4]. My cousin is with us [5]. Today Papa is ill with fever. Pola kisses you with all his heart. Farewell.

Your grateful pupil,

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Dated by a letter written at the same time by the composer's cousin Lidiya Tchaikovskaya (1836–1892).
  2. In May 1849 Ilya Tchaikovsky had moved to Alapayevsk in the Ural mountains to take up his new post as manager of a metallurgical factory, and he brought his whole family with him (except for Nikolay, who was left in a boarding-school in Saint Petersburg). Young Pyotr was not as happy in Alapayevsk as in Votkinsk, and this was reflected in the poor progress he made in his lessons (he was now being taught by his half-sister Zinayda) and in his capricious behaviour. His elder brother Nikolay far away in Saint Petersburg was often held up to him as a model of industriousness.
  3. Caroline (or in Russian spelling, Karolina) was the nanny in charge of the composer's younger siblings Aleksandra and Ippolit.
  4. After losing her husband, Yelizaveta Shobert would move to Alapayevsk to live with her sister Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya (the composer's mother). It is not clear in which month in 1849 Vasily Shobert died, but from this letter it is likely that it happened while his wife and children were on a visit to the Tchaikovskys, and that on receiving this sad news Yelizaveta Shobert returned home to settle her late husband's affairs, but left her children behind in Alapayevsk.
  5. The composer's cousin Amaliya Shobert, who was almost the same age as him, became one of his favourite playmates during his time in Alapayevsk. Countess Litke (as she became after marrying) later recalled how young Pyotr had devised some very imaginative games, such as 'sacrificing' carrots, cucumbers and peas to various deities, and how she and his sister Aleksandra had invariably followed his lead. See Modest Tchaikovsky, 1997 (1997), p. 52.
  6. Young Pyotr has tried to render the Russian word балл (ball = "mark, grade") directly into French by simply transcribing the Cyrillic letters.