Letter 738

Date 24 January/5 February 1878
Addressed to Sergey Taneyev
Where written San Remo
Language Russian
Autograph Location Moscow: Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (ф. 880)
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 94–95 (abridged)
Письма П. И. Чайковского и С. И. Танеева (1874-1893) [1916], p. 23–25
П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 28–29
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том VII (1962), p. 68–70

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Сан-Ремо  24 января
5 февраля
 

Милый Серёжа!

Виноват перед Вами. Только сегодня отвечаю Вам на два Ваших письма. Я ездил на несколько дней в Ниццу, и эта поездка помешала мне написать Вам во-время.

Не буду больше препираться с Вами насчёт сценичности или несценичности «Онегина». Я бы мог заметить, что Вы не совсем справедливо утверждаете, что характеры Татьяны и Ольги разъясняются не посредством действия, а посредством их монологов и диалогов. Правда, действия их очень просты, не театральны, обыденны, — но всё-таки каждая из них действует в той мере, на какую способна. Ольга девушка очень, в сущности, бесцветная, поэтому ей и действовать приходится мало. Татьяна более характерна, поэтому и действовать ей приходится больше. А впрочем, я уже говорил Вам, что если, как Вы утверждаете, опера есть действие, а у меня в «Онегине» его нет, то я готов назвать «Онегина» не оперой, а чем хотите: сценами, сценическим представлением, поэмой, чем Вам угодно. Мне захотелось написать музыкальную иллюстрацию к «Онегину»; при этом я неизбежно должен был прибегнуть к драматической форме и готов принять на себя все последствия своего пресловутого непонимания сцены и неумения выбирать сюжеты. Мне кажется, что все сценические неудобства выкупаются прелестью пушкинского стиха. Но по этому поводу у меня является одно опасение, гораздо более важное, чем страх, что публика не будет трепетать от интереса узнать развязку действия. Я говорю про то святотатственное дерзновение, с которым я поневоле должен бы ко многим стихам Пушкина прибавить или свои собственные, или же, местами, стихи Шиловского. Вот чего я боюсь, вот что меня смущает! Про музыку я Вам скажу, что если была когда-нибудь написана музыка с искренним увлечением, с любовью к сюжету и к действующим лицам оного, то это музыка к «Онегину». Я таял и трепетал от невыразимого наслаждения, когда писал её. И если на слушателе будет отзываться хоть малейшая доля того, что я испытывал, сочиняя эту оперу, — то я буду очень доволен и больше мне не нужно. Пусть «Онегин» будет очень скучным представлением с тепло написанной музыкой, — вот всё, чего я желаю.

Не посылайте меня в Париж, Сергей Иванович. Я люблю Париж не менее Вас, но только тогда, когда я там туристом, не имеющим никакого дела ни до кого. Я очень туг на знакомство с людьми вообще, а с музыкантами в особенности. А теперь я в таком настроении, что всякий новый человек внушает мне страх и наводит на меня непобедимую тоску. Я, впрочем, уже писал Вам об этом. Ещё я прибавлю, что Вы ошибаетесь, думая, что я живу одиноко. Со мной находится брат Модест, и мне его общества совершенно достаточно. Быть может, если обстоятельства позволят и если я буду здоровее, чем теперь, то когда-нибудь исполню моё несостоявшееся прошлогоднее намерение, т. е., взявши с собой тысячи полторы рублей, поеду в Париж (и уж, конечно, не во время выставки) и дам концерт. Быть же официальным представителем русской музыки, притом лишённым возможности что-либо организировать как потому, что правительство не хочет давать на это никаких средств, так и потому, что я по природе своей не организатор вообще и не капельмейстер в частности, — нимало для меня не соблазнительно. Все мои московские друзья посылают мне выговоры за то, что я упускаю случай сделать себя известным в Париже. Они забывают, что, принявши на себя обязанности делегата от русской музыки вообще, я бы должен был пропагандировать всех, кроме себя. Но могу ли я, неспособный, как Вам известно, свой собственный товар лицом показывать, — пропагандировать русскую музыку, да ещё не имея денег в своём распоряжении?

А главное, как я уже однажды Вам писал, я ищу свободы и покоя и больше ничего.

Теперь поговорим об Вас. Во-первых, я с лихорадочным нетерпением буду ожидать Вашей симфонии. Во-вторых, я хочу Вам сделать выговор. Мне очень не нравится, что Вы до сих пор ещё не приобрели той доли самоуверенности, на которую Вам даёт право Ваш талант и вся Ваша очень хорошо одарённая натура. Мне кажется, что Вы слишком долго остаётесь учеником, нуждающимся в указаниях Рубинштейна для того, чтобы в квартетном собрании сыграть сонату Бетховена. Вы уже давно восприняли от своего учителя всё, что было нужно. Теперь пора Вам довольствоваться своей собственной критикой и играть не по-рубинштейновски, а по-танеевски. Будьте, наконец, самим собой и полагайтесь твёрже на свои силы. Мне не нравится, что, уже сыгравши удачно сонату публично, Вы мне пишете: «Я надеюсь, что через месяц эта соната пойдёт у меня хорошо!» Это звучит по-ученически! Сколько ж Вам нужно времени, чтоб наконец вызубрить эту сонату? Вообще для виртуоза да, кажется, и для всякого художника нужна самоуверенность, разумеется, до известной степени. Вы уж слишком скромны; подымите голову повыше, если хотите, чтоб перед Вами кланялись и отступали! Иначе всякая дрань и всякая моська вообразит на основании Вашей преувеличенной скромности, что Вы и в самом деле не многого стоите. Я это говорю Вам с тем большим правом, что сам много теряю от недоверия к себе. Смелость города берёт. А если смелость вооружена талантом и знанием, то она должна завоевать целый мир.

Ваш П. Ч

Мамаше, Ивану Ильичу, всем Вашим и милым Масловым поклон

За согласие сделать переложение симфонии премного благодарен. Само собою разумеется, что за этот труд Вы должны взять хороший гонорарий с Юргенсона

San Remo  24 January
5 February
 

Dear Serezha!

I must apologize to you. Only today am I answering your two letters [1]. I went to Nice for a few days, and this trip prevented me from writing to you in time.

I will not squabble with you further regarding the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of "Onegin" on the stage [2]. I could point out, though, that you are not quite fair in asserting that Tatyana's and Olga's characters become clear not by means of their actions but by means of their monologues and dialogues. True, their actions are very simple, untheatrical, ordinary, and yet each one of them acts to the extent of what she is capable of. Olga is at bottom a very insipid girl, and that is why she doesn't get to act much. But anyway, I already told you that if, as you claim, opera is action, and there is no action in my "Onegin", then I am willing to call "Onegin" not an opera but whatever you like: scenes, a stage adaptation, a poema, just as you wish. I wanted to write a musical illustration to "Onegin", and to do this I had no choice but to resort to the form of drama, and I am quite ready to take upon myself all the consequences of my notorious inability to understand the stage and to choose suitable subjects for it. It seems to me that all its theatrical inadequacies are redeemed by the charm of Pushkin's verses. However, in this regard I have one misgiving which is much more weighty than the fear that the audience will not be shuddering with curiosity to find out the dénouement of the plot. I'm speaking of the sacrilegious impertinence with which willy-nilly I had to add to many of Pushkin's verses either my own or, in some places, verses by Shilovsky. That's what I am afraid of, that's what's really troubling me! As for the music, I should like to tell you that if there was ever any music written with genuine enthusiasm, with love for the plot and the characters it involves, then that is the music to "Onegin". I was melting and quivering with indescribable delight when I wrote it. And if even just the slightest portion of what I felt when composing this opera finds a response in the listeners, then I will be very satisfied and I want for no more. Let "Onegin" be a very boring spectacle with warmly written music — that is all I desire.

Don't send me to Paris, Sergey Ivanovich. I love Paris just as much as you do, but only when I am there as a tourist who doesn't have to deal with anyone [3]. I am very reluctant to make acquaintances in general, and to make the acquaintance of musicians in particular. Now, though, I am in such a mood that every new person instils fear in me, as well as unconquerable anguish. However, I have already written to you about this. What I would like to add is that you are mistaken in your belief that I am living alone. My brother is with me, and his company is entirely sufficient for me. If my circumstances allow it and I am in a better state of health than now, then maybe I shall carry out at some point the plan which I had last year — that is, to take one and a half thousand rubles with me, travel to Paris (of course, not during the [International] Exposition), and give a concert there [4]. Acting as an official representative of Russian music, and, what is more, one who is deprived of the opportunity to organize anything both because the government doesn't want to allot any funds for this, and because by nature I am neither an organizer in general nor a music director in particular — that, I say, is not in the least tempting for me. All my Moscow friends send me reproaches for letting slip this opportunity to become famous in Paris. They forget that were I to take upon myself the obligations of a delegate for Russian music in general, I would have to promote everyone except for myself. But can I, as someone who, as you know, is incapable of showing his own wares to advantage, really promote Russian music, and, what is more, without having any money at my disposal?

The main thing, though, is that, as I have already written to you once, I am looking for freedom and peace and nothing else [5].

Let us now talk about you. First of all, I shall await your symphony with feverish impatience [6]. Secondly, I would like to tell you off. I really don't like to see how you have not yet acquired that dose of self-confidence to which you are entitled by virtue of your talent and your whole richly gifted nature. It seems to me that you are remaining a pupil far too long — a pupil who is in need of Rubinstein's instructions to be able to perform a sonata by Beethoven at a chamber music concert! [7] You have long since assimilated from your teacher everything that you needed. It is now time for you to be content with your own self-critique and to play not like Rubinstein, but like Taneyev. Be yourself finally and put more trust in your own resources. I don't like the way that, after successfully playing the sonata in public once, you still write to me: "I hope that in a month's time I will be able to pull off this sonata well"![8] This sounds so much like a pupil! How much more time do you need, then, in order to finish cramming this sonata once and for all?! Generally speaking, it is essential for a virtuoso, and indeed for any artist, to have self-confidence — up to a certain point, of course. You, however, are far too modest. Lift your head a little higher if you want people to bow down to you and make way for you! Otherwise every trash and pug-dog will imagine, on the basis of your exaggerated modesty, that you really are not worth much. I am all the more entitled to say this to you, because I myself lose out on a lot as a result of my lack of self-confidence. Courage conquers cities. And if that courage is armed with talent and knowledge, then it must surely conquer the whole world.

Yours, P. T.

Give my regards to your dear little mother, Ivan Ilyich [9], all your folk, and to the dear Maslovs.

I am ever so grateful to your for consenting to make the arrangement of my symphony [10]. It goes without saying that you must demand a good fee from Jurgenson for this job.

Notes and References

  1. Taneyev's two letters to Tchaikovsky from Moscow on 8/20 January 1878 and 15/27 January 1878 have been published in П. И. Чайковский. С. И. Танеев. Письма (1951), p. 26–28.
  2. In an earlier letter to Tchaikovsky on 4/16 December 1877 Taneyev had observed that the only fault he could find in Yevgeny Onegin so far (that is, up to the end of Act I) was the libretto, which in his view lacked action. Tchaikovsky had then defended his opera at length in Letter 716 to Taneyev on 2/14 January 1878, arguing that it should not be judged according to the conventions of grand opéra. In his reply to Tchaikovsky on 8/20 January 1878 Taneyev qualified his earlier observation as follows: "When I wrote to you that Onegin was ineffective on the stage, I didn't mean that it lacked battle scenes, marches, and popular revolts. I meant that the very course of the drama, the plot itself has almost no interest whatsoever for the spectator: there are no events which he might follow with concentrated attention, whose dénouement in this or that way might have this or that effect on him. Don't forget that I had in mind only the first scene. In its entirety it corresponds to the 'descriptions' in the novel. What you find out from it is that the landowner Larina has two daughters with two different characters, that they are acquainted with Lensky etc. The character of the protagonists does not become clear from the plot. Rather, each character speaks about himself or herself: Olga, that she is merry and carefree; Tatyana, that she is dreamy. Agathe in Der Freischütz is also dreamy, but she doesn't talk about it — rather, it is the case that when you see her praying and singing on the balcony at night, you cannot have any doubt that she is 'dreamy'. Moreover, this dreaminess has an effect on you, it captures your interest and moves you. Opera is action, and in opera every human quality should be depicted by means of action. Narration is good in a novel, in a tale. This is what I meant by the phrase 'ineffective on the stage'. Again, I repeat that I said this only about the beginning. Tatyana's letter and especially the ball with the challenge to the duel which you sent us later are very interesting and 'effective'".
  3. In Letter 716 to Taneyev on 2/14 January 1878 Tchaikovsky explained that he had finally turned down Nikolay Rubinstein's offer of acting as the delegate for Russian music at the International Exposition in Paris later that summer. Taneyev, in his letter of 8/20 January, had urged his former teacher to reconsider his decision, adding that in Paris he would meet lots of interesting people, and that this would help to cheer him up. Taneyev had himself spent the winter of 1876–77 in the French capital where, apart from meeting various local musicians, he had also had several fascinating conversations with the writer Ivan Turgenev.
  4. See Letter 518 to Taneyev, 5/17 December 1876, as well as Letter 528 to Taneyev, 25 December 1876/6 January 1877; and Letter 528a to Édouard Colonne on the same date, for details of Tchaikovsky's ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful plan to organize a concert of his own works in Paris in the first half of 1877.
  5. See Letter 716 to Taneyev on 2/14 January 1878, in which Tchaikovsky also quoted from Mikhail Lermontov's 1841 poem "I go out alone onto the road..." (Выхожу один я на дорогу...): "I expect nothing more from life, / And I'm not in the least sorry for the past; / I search for freedom and peace! / I'd like to forget myself and fall asleep!" (Уж не жду от жизни ничего я, / И не жаль мне прошлого ничуть; / Я ищу свободы и покоя! / Я б хотел забыться и заснуть!).
  6. Taneyev was working at the time on his Symphony No. 2 in B-flat minor (which ultimately remained unfinished), and in his letter to Tchaikovsky of 8/20 January 1878 he had promised to send his former teacher the full score of the first movement.
  7. In his letter to Tchaikovsky of 8/20 January 1878 Taneyev explained that despite having been rehearsing for a fortnight Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A major, Op. 101 (and, moreover, spending six hours on it every day), he still felt that he was playing it badly and was anxious about the forthcoming chamber music concert at which he was due to perform it. Taneyev also mentioned that he had played it in front of Nikolay Rubinstein once, and that his former piano teacher at the Conservatory wasn't happy with his playing either.
  8. In his later letter to Tchaikovsky of 15/27 January 1878 Taneyev had written: "Today was the chamber music concert. My sonata turned out not at all as badly as I had expected. I was called out onto the podium and received very eager applause. There were people who told me they had liked my playing. I hope that in a month's time I will be able to pull off this sonata well: I shall continue studying it".
  9. Taneyev's father, Ivan Ilyich Taneyev (1796–1879), a music-lover and amateur man of letters.
  10. Taneyev had agreed tp arranging Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony for piano duet (see Letter 716).