Letter 623a

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 20 October/1 November 1877
Addressed to Lauro Rossi
Where written Clarens
Language French
Autograph Location Naples (Italy): Conservatorio di Musica S. Pietro a Majella, Biblioteca
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XVII (1981), p. 225
Čajkovskijs Homosexualität und sein Tod. Legenden und Wirklichkeit (1998), p. 190–191 (with German translation, p. 192)

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
1er Novembre 1877


Votre lettre de 5 Septembre n'est parvenue jusqu'à moi que depuis quelques jours. Une grave maladie ayant forcé de fuir le climat rigoureux de mon pays, c'est en Suisse que je me suis fixé pour quelque temps, et c'est ici que j'ai eu l'honneur de recevoir Votre missive

Monsieur et illustre maître! C'est avec la plus grande joie que j'accepte la proposition que V[ou]s me faites de prendre part au recueil que V[ou]s avez l'intention de publier en l'honneur du grand maître, dont j'ai toujours été un fervent admirateur

Pas plus tard que le 1er Decembre je V[ou]s enverrai la pièce demandée

En attendant, agréez, Monsieur l'expression du profond respecte de Votre serviteur dévoué

P. Tchaïkovsky

Clarens. Villa Richelieu. Suisse

1st November 1877


Your letter of 5 September did not reach me until a few days ago [1]. Since a grave illness has forced me to flee the harsh climate of my country, it is in Switzerland that I have established my abode for a while, and it is here that I have had the honour of receiving your communication [2].

Monsieur and illustrious maestro! It is with the greatest joy that I accept your offer to take part in the anthology which you intend to publish in honour of the great master, whose fervent admirer I have always been.

I shall send you the requested piece not later than the 1st of December [3].

In the meanwhile, please accept, Monsieur, this assurance of profound respect from your devoted servant.

P. Tchaikovsky

Clarens. Villa Richelieu. Switzerland

Notes and References

  1. In 1876, the remains of Vincenzo Bellini (who died on his estate near Paris in 1835) had been transferred from the Père Lachaise cemetery to the cathedral of his native town Catania in Sicily. This had led to a number of commemorative events across Italy. To accompany the unveiling of a Bellini monument in Naples, where the composer had studied and achieved his first operatic successes, Lauro Rossi, the director of the city's conservatory, wanted to publish an album of piano pieces in his honour. Rossi wrote to a number of composers, including Tchaikovsky, asking them to contribute to this Bellini album. As this letter shows, Tchaikovsky gladly accepted the offer — note based on information provided by Thomas Kohlhase in Paris vaut bien une messe! Bisher unbekannte Briefe, Notenautographie und andere Čajkovskij-Funde (1998), p. 190–191.
  2. By these references to his "grave illness" and the "harsh climate" of Russia, Tchaikovsky is obliquely alluding to his escape abroad in early October 1877. The composer, in consultation with his brothers Anatoly and Modest, had decided to explain his sudden flight from his wife Antonina as the result of a nervous breakdown, following which the doctors had allegedly advised him to go abroad. Tchaikovsky and Anatoly arrived in Clarens on 10/22 October 1877 and rented rooms at the Villa Richelieu.
  3. Tchaikovsky was unable to keep his promise, and on 11 May 1878 [N.S.] Rossi wrote to him again to remind him about the Bellini album. Since he was occupied with other work at the time, Tchaikovsky decided to make use of the piano piece Danse russe — No. 10 of the Twelve Pieces, Op. 40 (1878), which in fact he had written earlier in 1877 as an additional number for the ballet Swan Lake. He changed some nuances in the dynamics and phrasing of the Danse russe and sent the new manuscript score (written in his own hand) to Naples, where to this day it is still kept in the library of the Conservatory. The Danse russe was incorporated into the Album per pianoforte alla memoria di Vincenzo Bellini, which was eventually published by Ricordi in Milan in 1885 — note based on information provided by Thomas Kohlhase in Paris vaut bien une messe! Bisher unbekannte Briefe, Notenautographie und andere Čajkovskij-Funde (1998), p. 190–191.