Letter 78

Date 10/22 January 1866
Addressed to Anatoly Tchaikovsky and Modest Tchaikovsky
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location unknown
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 222–223
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 72–73
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 21–22
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 91
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 20 (English translation)
Notes Manuscript copy in Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve

Text and Translation

Based on a handwritten copy in the Klin House-Museum Archive, which may contain differences in formatting and content from Tchaikovsky's original letter.

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Москва,
10 января 1866 г.

Милые братцы!

Живу я у Рубинштейна. Он человек очень добрый и симпатичный, с некоторою неприступностью своего брата ничего не общего не имеет, зато, с другой стороны, он не может стать с ним наряду как артист. Я занимаю небольшую комнату рядом с его спальней, и, по правде сказать, по вечерам, когда мы ложимся спать вместе (что, впрочем, будет случаться, кажется, очень редко), я несколько стесняюсь; скрипом пера боюсь мешать ему спать (нас разделяет маленькая перегородка), а между тем теперь ужасно занят. Почти безвыходно сижу дома, и Рубинштейн, ведущий жизнь довольно рассеянную, не может надивиться моему прилежанию. Был по разу в обоих театрах; опера идёт прескверно, зато не помню, чтоб я когда-нибудь испытал такое артистическое наслаждение, как в драматическом спектакле. Пришлось попасть на пьесу, обставленную самыми лучшими актёрами; это была «Паутина», производящая здесь большой фурор. Ещё ни с кем почти не познакомился, но довольно коротко уже сошёлся с неким Кашкиным, приятелем Лароша, очень хорошим музыкантом. Рубинштейн раз вечером почти насильно потянул меня к каким-то Тарновским, впрочем, очень милым людям. Вчера был здесь общедоступный концерт, в материальном отношении неудавшийся, но довольно интересный; оркестр хорош, а хор великолепен. Бывают очень и очень грустные минуты, но вообще чувствую непреодолимую жажду к работе, и она составляет огромное утешение. Уже оркестровал бóльшую часть моей летней увертюры, и, к ужасу моему, она выходит непомерно длинна, чего я вовсе не ожидал; сперва я обещал Н. Рубинштейну отдать её для исполнения сюда, а потом перешлю в Петербург.

Вчера, ложась спать, много думал о вас; воображал все ужасы первой ночи после праздников; мне всё казалось, что Модька, уткнув нос в одеяло, проливает тайные слёзы, и очень хотелось его, бедного, утешить. Не ради пышной фразы говорю тебе, Модя: зубри, зубри, зубри и води дружбу с Инсарским или Толстым, а не с юродивым Лениным. Я очень боюсь, чтоб ты не остался в классе и вообще не попал в число неодобряемых начальством лиц. За Толю я не боюсь, а потому не даю ему советов; я знаю, что он зубрила. Милый мой Толька, преобори свою лень писать письма и напиши мне. На тебя, Модя, я надеюсь.

Целую Вас
П. Чайковский

Moscow,
10 January 1866

Dear chaps!

I am living at Rubinstein's place. He is a very kind and nice person, and has nothing in common with that rather unapproachable manner of his brother, but then, on the other hand, he is not on the same level as him as an artist. I am renting a small room next to his bedroom, and, to be honest, in the evenings, when we go to bed at the same time (which, however, is probably going to happen very rarely), I feel somewhat embarrassed: I am afraid lest the squeaking of my pen should disturb his sleep (we are separated by a thin partition), and yet right now I am awfully busy [1]. I stay at home without going anywhere almost all the time, and Rubinstein, who leads a quite rakish life, cannot get over his astonishment at my diligence. I have been to both theatres once: the opera here is abonimable, but on the other hand, I don't remember ever having experienced such artistic pleasure as at the theatre performance I attended. I got to see a play which was adorned by the very best actors—namely, The Spider's Web, which is causing a great furore here [2]. So far I have made almost no acquaintances, though I have become quite close friends with a certain Kashkin, a friend of Laroche's who is a very good musician [3]. On one evening, Rubinstein almost dragged me off by force to see a certain family—the Tarnovskys—who in fact turned out to be very nice folks. Yesterday a popular concert took place here which from the financial point of view was a failure, but which was quite interesting: the orchestra was good, and the chorus magnificent [4]. I do have some really, really sad moments, but on the whole I feel an irresistible thirst for work, and this affords me huge consolation. I have already orchestrated the greater part of my summer overture [5], and, to my horror, it's turning out to be terribly long, which I didn't expect at all. I promised N. Rubinstein that I would first submit it for performance here, and after that I shall send it on to Petersburg.

Yesterday, as I was going to bed, I thought about you a lot. I could imagine all the horrors of the first night after the holidays [6]. I kept thinking that Modka, his nose tucked into his blanket, must be shedding secret tears, and I very much wanted to comfort him, poor fellow. It is not for the sake of bombastic phrase-mongering that I say this to you, Modya: study, study, study hard, and be friends with Insarsky or Tolstoy, but not with the crazy Lenin [7]. I am very worried lest you should be made to repeat a year, and, in general, lest you should end up in the group of individuals who are frowned upon by the authorities. For Tolya I fear not, and that is why I'm not giving him any advice. I know that he's a crammer. My dear Tolka, overcome your laziness with regard to writing letters, and write to me. I'm counting on you, Modya.

I kiss you
P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky was then orchestrating his Overture in C minor, which he had composed during the summer of 1865—note based on that by Modest Tchaikovsky in Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 206  [back]
  2. The Spider's Web, a comedy by the playwright and music critic Ippolit Aleksandrovich Mann (1823-1894), was then being performed at the Moscow Maly Theatre, with a cast including Glikeriya Fedotova, Sergey Vasilyevich Shumsky (1820-1878), Prov Sadovsky, and Ivan Samarin—note based on that by Modest Tchaikovsky in Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 206  [back]
  3. Nikolay Kashkin would later recall his first meeting with the composer as follows: "[Tchaikovsky] seemed to me very attractive and handsome; at least, in his face there was the clear stamp of talent, and at the same time it was lit up by kindness and intelligence. Through the mediation of H. A. Laroche we already knew one another virtually, so to speak, and so when we first met it was almost like acquaintances coming together, and our relations immediately acquired a straightforward, comradely spirit. As far as I remember, I then and there suggested to Pyotr Ilyich that he come and have dinner with me once my class was over. He agreed, and a few hours later he was already sitting in my apartment. Our dinner was of course punctuated with lively conversations; we chatted for a very long time, and it's possible that we also played some piano duets, which is something that Pyotr Ilyich always liked very much. This dinner and our after-dinner conversation consolidated the sympathy I felt for my new colleague". See Nikolay Kashkin, Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1896), p. 9-10. Note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 666  [back]
  4. This concert featured: 1) the overture to Meyerbeer's opera The Northern Star; 2) an a cappella chorus from the 15th century entitled Alla Trinita; 3) a chorus from Handel's Alexander's Feast; 4) Dargomyzhsky's orchestral fantasia Little-Russian Kazachok; 5) Weber's Polonaise brillante (arranged for piano and orchestra by Liszt), played by Nikolay Rubinstein; 6) the Gypsies' Chorus from Act I of Anton Rubinstein's opera Die Kinder der Heide; and 7) the Hungarian March from Berlioz's La damnation de Faust—note based on that by Modest Tchaikovsky in Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 206-207  [back]
  5. The Overture in C minor  [back]
  6. The twins Anatoly and Modest had recently returned to the School of Jurisprudence (which was a boarding school) after spending the Christmas holidays at home — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 666  [back]
  7. Nikolay Sergeyevich Lenin (1847-1899), a student at the School of Jurisprudence who was friends with Modest, though three years older than him. As is clear from other letters, he shared Modest's homosexual inclinations (which in Modest's case had begun to manifest themselves at around this time). Klavdy Aleksandrovich Insarsky (1849-1871) and Pavel Tolstoy were classmates of Modest's at the school. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 188-189  [back]