Letter 528a

Date 25 December 1876/6 January 1877
Addressed to Édouard Colonne
Where written Moscow
Language French
Autograph Location unknown [1]
Publication Cahiers Ivan Tourgueniev, Pauline Viardot, Maria Malibran (1990), p. 148–154 (including facsimile, p. 150–151)
Tschaikowsky-Gesellschaft Mitteilungen (2008), p. 4–6 (including German translation, p. 6–7)
Notes Photocopy in Moscow: Russian National Museum of Music [2]

Text and Translation

French text
(original)
English translation
By Brett Langston
Moscou, le  25 Déc[embre] 1876
6 janvier 1877
 

Monsieur!

Je ne sais pas si mon nom a le privilège d'être connu de Vous.

Je suis un compositeur russe, fixé à Moscou, jouissant d'une certaine réputation dans mon pays, mais jusqu'à présent presque complètement inconnu à l'étranger.

M[onsieu]r Pasdeloups a fait entendre cet hiver une de mes ouvertures dans un de ses concerts populaires. Il paraît que cette œuvre, quoique ayant provoqué quelques sifflets, — n'a pas cependant passé inaperçue. On m'écrit que beaucoup de musiciens on trouvé ma musique assez intéressante. Mais mon plus vif désir, mon voeu le plus ardent, — ce serait de me faire connaître (si ce n'est par le gros du public, du moins par ses parties les plus éclairées,) d'une manière plus complète. M[onsieur] de S[ain]t Saëns, m'a dit l'année passée, qu'il n'est pas impossible que si je m'adressais à V[ou]s, et V[ou]s priais de me prêter le concours de Votre excellent orchestre ainsi que de son chef éminent, — V[ou]s auriez peut-être l'extrême bonté de consentir à interpréter mes compositions dans un concert que je donnerais à Paris.

Voici donc, Monsieur, en quoi consiste ma demande. Je voudrais au mois de Mars de cette année louer une des salles de concerts de Paris et y donner un concert composé de mes œuvres exclusivement. Comme le but de ce concert n'est nullement celui de gagner de l'argent et comme je n'ai pas le présomption de m'imaginer que le public payant y viendrait, — j'apporterais avec moi à Paris la somme nécessaire pour payer l'orchestre, les frais de la salle et de l'éclairage et je distribuerais des cartes d'entrées gratis à tout ce qui s'intéresse à la musique à Paris. Je V[ou]s supplie donc, Monsieur Colonne, de me faire l'honneur de me dire:

1) si je puis espérer que V[ou]s et Votre orchestre seraient disponibles pour ce concert projeté;
2) combien coûterait cet orchestre (trois répétitions et le concert);
3) combien coûteraient la salle, les annonces, et les autres frais;
4) à qui pourrai-je m'adresser pour arranger tout cela.

J'espère, Monsieur, que V[ou]s ne m'en voudrez pas de la liberté que je prends de m'adresser directement à V[ou]s, et tout en espérant que V[ou]s m'honorerez d'une réponse, je vous prie, Monsieur, de recevoir l'assurance de la considération et de l'estime parfaite de Votre serviteur dévoué

P. Tchaïkovsky
Adresse. Moscou. Conservatoire Impérial de musique

Moscow,  25 December 1876
6 January 1877
 

Monsieur!

I do not know if my name has the privilege of being known to you.

I am a Russian composer, resident in Moscow, enjoying a certain reputation in my country, but until now almost completely unknown abroad.

This winter Monsieur Pasdeloup played one of my overtures at one of his popular concerts [3]. It seems that this work, although it caused some catcalls, did not pass unnoticed. Many musicians have written to me to say that they find my music rather interesting [4]. But my keenest desire, my most ardent wish, — is to become known more completely (if not by the majority of the public, then at least by an enlightened few), Monsieur de Saint Saëns told me last year [5] that it might be possible, were I to contact you and to request for the assistance of your excellent orchestra as well as its eminent leader, — that you would perhaps have the extreme kindness to consent to interpret my compositions during a concert I might give in Paris.

And so, Monsieur, this is the substance of my request. I should like in March of this year to hire one of the concert halls of Paris and put on a concert made up exclusively of my works. As the aim of this concert is by no means financial gain, and as I would not presume to imagine that the public would pay to attend, — I would bring with me to Paris the sum necessary to pay the orchestra, the expenses of the concert hall and lighting and I would distribute free tickets to all those in Paris who are interested in music. And so I beg you, Monsieur Colonne, to do me the honour of informing me:

1) if I might hope that you and your orchestra would be available for this projected concert;
2) what the charge would be for the orchestra (for three rehearsals and the concert);
3) what the charge would be for the concert hall, the notices, and the other expenses;
4) who I might contact to organise the arrangements [6].

I hope, Sir, you will not think badly of me for taking the liberty of addressing you directly, and, hoping that you will honour me with a response, I ask you, Monsieur, to accept the sincere and utmost regards of your devoted servant

P. Tchaikovsky
Address. Moscow. Imperial Conservatory of music

Notes and References

  1. The autograph was auctioned by Christie's, London, 3 July 2007 [1].
  2. The complete archival signature in Russian of this photocopy, as communicated by Aleksandr Komarov to Lucinde Braun by email on 13 November 2012, is: ВМОМК имени М.И. Глинки, Отдел документов и личных архивов, научно-воспитательный фонд, № 814.
  3. Jules Etienne Pasdeloup (1819-1887), French conductor who established in Paris a series of popular concerts of classical music. On 10 December 1876 [N.S.] the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet was given its first performance in France at one of these concerts.
  4. It is not clear whether any French musicians had actually written to Tchaikovsky at this stage, but in a letter of 28 November/10 December 1876 Sergey Taneyev, who was then staying in Paris, informed his former teacher: "I have played your concerto at Saint-Saëns's house: everyone liked it very much. Indeed, the musicians here are very interested in your works. Have you sent them here?" Quoted from П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 10.
  5. Tchaikovsky had made the acquaintance of Saint-Saëns during the Frenchman's concert tour to Moscow in November 1875. See also Letter 518 to Taneyev of 5/17 December 1876.
  6. Colonne's reply has not come down to us, but it was clearly positive, because in his next letter to the Frenchman (Letter 534a) Tchaikovsky thanked him warmly for offering the services of his orchestra and his own as a conductor. Tchaikovsky also began making various preparations, which included writing to Adolphe Giacomelli (c. 1825–1893), a Paris-based music critic who also acted as a concert agent (this letter has not survived), as well as Letter 535 to Taneyev, asking him to enlist, via Turgenev, the participation of Pauline Viardot at this concert. These plans, however, had to be abandoned very soon when Tchaikovsky proved unable to raise the necessary funds. For more details on Taneyev's efforts on behalf of Tchaikovsky in Paris, see: Turgenev and Taneyev.