Letter 4603

Date 17/29 January 1892
Addressed to William von Sachs
Where written Paris
Language French
Autograph Location New York (New York, USA): The Morgan Library and Museum
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XVI-Б (1979), p. 25–26
Tchaikovsky in America. The composer's visit in 1891 (1986), p. 185–186 (English translation)

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Ronald de Vet
29 Janvier 1892

Mon bien cher ami!

Votre lettre vient de parvenir jusqu'à moi; elle a beaucoup voyagé avant de me rattraper. Combien c'est gentil de Votre part de ne pas m'oublier! Vous m'avez vivement touché et soyez sûr que je Vous rend bien les sentiments cordieux dont Votre bonne lettre est pénetrée. Recevez de mon côté mille souhaits de prosperité et de bonheur à l'occasion de l'année qui commence. Je serais bien content de Vous revoir en Europe et si Vous me faites savoir où Vous passerez l'été, il est fort probable que je pourrai Vous voir et Vous serrer la main. Quant à revenir en Amérique — je doute que cela puisse m'arriver. Malgré mon désir sincère de revoir un pays où j'ai été bien reçu, — cela exige trop de temps, trop de peines et de fatigues. Il faut avoir beaucoup d'argent et beaucoup de loisir pour se payer ce plaisir; je n'ai ni l'un, ni l'autre. Il est vrai que Mr Reno m'a fait une proposition, mais à des conditions tellement basses que j'aurais pu croire que c'est une mauvaise plaisanterie, surtout après les énormités flatteuses qu'on me débitait avec trop de largesse pendant mon séjour à New York! Mon Dieu, que de projets grandioses, que de promesses et de sollicitations chaleureuses, que de générosités et de protestations d'enthousiasme! Et tout cela a abouti à une mesquinerie incompréhensible. Il s'en suit que sérieusement parlant ma person[n]alité musicale n'offre qu'un intérêt tout à fait insignifiant pour l'Amerique ce qui m'étonne beaucoup moins, que les louanges exagérées qu'on me débitait là-bas, quand j'y étais. Au revoir, cher et bon ami.

Bien à Vous, P. Tschaïkovsky

29 January 1892

My dearest friend!

Your letter has just reached me; it has travelled a lot before catching up with me [1]. How kind of you on your part not to forget me! You have touched me greatly, and you can rest assured that I reciprocate the cordial feelings with which your friendly letter is permeated. Do receive from my part a thousand wishes of prosperity and happiness on the occasion of the new year which has begun. I would be very pleased to see you in Europe, and if you could let me know where you will be spending the summer, it is quite likely that I will be able to see you and to shake your hand. As for coming to America again, I doubt if that will happen to me. In spite of my sincere wish to go back to a country where I have been received so well, it would involve too much time, too much trouble and too much stress. One must have a lot of money and a lot of spare time in order to treat oneself to this pleasure; I have neither of these. Mr Reno [2] has indeed made me a proposal; but on conditions so bad that I could believe it to be a poor joke, especially after the flattering hyperboles which they lavished on me with such generosity during my stay in New York![3] My goodness, what grandiose plans, what promises and warm-hearted requests, what liberalities and protestations of enthusiasm! And all this has resulted in an incomprehensible stinginess [4]. It follows that, seriously speaking, my musical personality is only of quite insignificant interest for America, which amazes me much less than the exaggerated praises which they lavished on me when I was there. Goodbye, dear and good friend.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. |Tchaikovsky had not been home for a month—he left Maydanovo on 14/26 December 1891 to visit Moscow, Kiev, Kamenka, Warsaw, Hamburg, and Paris. He arrived back in Russia on 19/31 January 1892.
  2. Morris Reno, the president of the board of directors of the "Music Hall Company of New York". Because European artists who were invited to perform there tended to associate the name Music Hall with vaudeville music, it was changed to Carnegie Hall in 1894, after the name of its founder, the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1918).
  3. Tchaikovsky had visited America from 14/26 April till 8/20 May 1891, and had received $ 2500 for conducting four concerts in New York.
  4. In September 1891, the Music Hall Company had offered Tchaikovsky $ 4000 for conducting 25 concerts in April and May 1892. Tchaikovsky indignantly asked his publisher Jurgenson to reply with the single (French) word "Non" (see Letter 4470 of 7/19 September 1891). The following month, Tchaikovsky asked Jurgenson to telegraph Morris Reno to tell him he couldn't accept less than $ 12,000 (Letter 4511 of 13/25 October 1891). On behalf of Reno, Leon Margulis wrote to Tchaikovsky in November 1891 to tell him that the board understood he didn't want to come, and although he admitted that $4000 was not much, he explained that an offer for regular concerts could not be on the same level as that for the inauguration concert had been (a Russian translation of Margulis's letter is included in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 92-93; the letter is given in English in Tchaikovsky in America. The composer's visit in 1891 (1986), p. 184-185). Andrew Carnegie had invested about $2 million in the hall, and had trouble recouping his expenses in the first years of its exploitation, when the hall suffered from a very low number of orchestra bookings. To compensate for this, the hall was rented out for lectures on scientific discoveries, political speeches and the like.