Letter 976

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Date 23 November/5 December–24 November/6 December 1878
Addressed to Nadezhda von Meck
Where written Florence
Language Russian
Autograph Location Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve (a3, No. 2895)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Переписка с Н. Ф. фон-Мекк, том 1 (1934), p. 491–492
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том VII (1962), p. 471–472

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Henry Zajaczkowski
Четверг
12 ч[асов] ночи.

Я хочу просить Вас, добрый и милый друг мой, не стесняться обязательными ответами на каждое письмо мое. Мне очень было бы неприятно, если б Вы подвергали из-за меня утомлению глаза Ваши. Мне очень хорошо известно, до чего занят и полон Ваш день. Я отлично понимаю, что и Ваши многочисленные семейные отношения и разнообразные деловые переписки занимают и без того у Вас много времени. Ну, словом, я ни мало не претендую получать от Вас ответ на каждое письмо мое. Ради бога, берегите свое зрение и пишите мне как раз настолько, чтобы не делать никакого усилия над собой.

Я до крайности благодарен Вам, дорогая моя, за приглашение побывать в Вашей вилле. Но простите меня чудака.Я не воспользуюсь этим приглашением, пока Вы здесь. Я знаю, что, пришедши в виллу, я, как Вы пишете, не встретил бы ни души. Но это меня стесняло бы я конфузило. Меня угнетала бы мысль, что из-за меня все скрываются. Я предпочел бы побывать на вилле Oppenheim тотчас, как Вы уедете, и попросил бы Вас сделать распоряжение в этом смысле. Пожалуйста, не сердитесь на меня за это уклонение от Вашего предложения. Я бы хотел посетить Вашу виллу с таким же отрадным и ничем не смущаемым чувством общения с Вами, какое я испытывал в Браилове и в московском доме Вашем.

Так как я заговорил об отъезде Вашем, то кстати поговорю и о том, что я предполагаю делать после того, как Вы уедете. Сегодня я довольно много думал об этом и решил, что так как я хочу много работать, то мне нельзя будет ехать ни в Рим, ни в Неаполь. Оба эти города слишком обильны интересом. Нельзя жить в Неаполе и не бродить целый день по фантастически-чудесным его окрестностям. Нельзя жить в Риме и сидеть дома. Поэтому я желал бы, оставшись здесь после Вас еще два или три дня, поехать в Париж, чтобы собрать там многочисленные материалы для «Jeanne d'Аrс» и особенно либретто Mermet. A далее я еще не знаю, что бы я сделал, но, во всяком случае, на праздники в Россию не поеду. Сестра с семейством весь декабрь и январь проведет в Петербурге, и, следовательно, в Каменку меня ничто привлекать не будет. Таким образом, ранее начала весны я вряд ли возвращусь в Россию. Нужно будет поискать после Парижа тихого уголка для работы, а потом уже через Петербург вернуться надолго в Россию.

А покамест мне необходимо хорошенько заняться инструментовкой сюиты, чтобы, покончив с ней, вполне отдаться опере. Ах, друг мой.. как у меня много материала накопляется для этой оперы и с какою любовью я весь отдамся ей, как только кончу теперешнюю работу. Я должен каждый день делать усилие над собой, чтоб удержаться от новой работы, пока первая еще не готова!

Я много гулял сегодня и был, между прочим, на вилле Галилeя.

Покойной ночи Вам, милый друг.

Ваш П. Чайковский
Thursday
12 o'clock at night [1]

I want to ask you, my kind and dear friend, not to feel so timid as to give guaranteed answers to every one of my letters. It would be very unpleasant to me if you were subjected on my account to a fatigue of your eyes [2]. I know only too well how busy and full your days must be. I absolutely understand that you're occupied with your numerous family matters and diverse business correspondence and that, without that, you would have a lot of time. Well, in a word, I can hardly expect to receive a reply from you to every one of my letters. For God's sake, take care of your eyesight and write to me just as much as will not cause any exertion on your part.

I am absolutely grateful to you, my dear, for the invitation to spend a brief time at your villa. But forgive my acting the eccentric. I shall not take up this invitation while you are here. I know that, once I've come to the villa I would, as you say, not meet a soul. But it would hamper and embarrass me. I would be depressed by the thought that because of me everyone is hiding. I would prefer to spend a short while at the Villa Oppenheim just after you have left [3], and would ask that you give an instruction to that effect. Please don't be angry at me for this refusal of your offer. I would like to visit your villa with just as rewarding, and as little embarrassing, a sense of communion with you as I felt at Brailov and your Moscow home.

As I have been babbling on about your departure, so too, likewise, I shall add something about what I aim to do when you have left. Today I thought quite a lot about that and decided that, because I want to do a lot of work, I cannot travel either to Rome or Naples. Both of these cities are too richly interesting. It is impossible to dwell in Naples and not roam about its fantastic and wonderful neighbourhoods all day. Impossible to dwell in Rome and sit in the house. Therefore I should like, having left here another two or three days after you, to set off for Paris in order to collect there numerous materials for "Jeanne d'Arc" [4] and in particular Mermet's libretto [5]. Beyond that I don't yet know what I would be doing but, in any case, I shall not go to Russia for the holidays. My sister and her family will be visiting Petersburg for all of December and January and, consequently, nothing will be drawing me to Kamenka. Thus I am hardly likely to be back in Russia before early spring. It will be necessary to search out some peaceful little spot to work in after Paris, and then, via Petersburg, to return for a long time to Russia.

But for now it is necessary to apply myself well and truly to the instrumentation of the suite [6] so that, when I am done with it, I can devote myself fully to the opera. Ah, my friend... what a lot of material I'm amassing for this opera and with what love I shall devote everything to it, as soon as I complete the present work. I must force myself every day to hold back from starting the new work while the first is not yet prepared.

I did a great deal of walking today and was, by the way, at the Villa Galileo [7].

Good night to you, dear friend.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

<references> [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 i.e. midnight of 23 November/5 December 1878, writing on into 24 November/6 December.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Tchaikovsky is here responding to a concern expressed by Nadezhda von Meck herself about being prone to straining her eyes: this and a liability to migraine results in her writing letters only at the very start of the day, as soon as she is up. See her letter to the composer of 23 November/5 December 1878, written at the Villa Oppenheim, Florence, printed in П. И. Чайковский. Переписка с Н. Ф. фон-Мекк, том 1 (1934), p. 487.
  3. 3.0 3.1 He refers to Nadezhda von Meck's plans to travel presently to Vienna.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tchaikovsky here makes a broad reference to the opera that he would soon commence writing, about Joan of Arc. It would not, however, come to be entitled Jeanne d'Arc but, rather, The Maid of Orleans after its main literary source, Schiller's play Die Jungfrau von Orleans, as translated into Russian by Zhukovsky.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Auguste Mermet (1810-1889) had the distinction of being the first composer to have an opera premièred at the new Paris opera house, the Palais Garnier (inaugurated 1875). His Jeanne d'Arc had its first performance there in 1876. But, as Tchaikovsky had observed in a recent letter to Nadezhda von Meck, although Mermet's opera had crashed, it had, nevertheless, to his recollection been "very much praised [for] how adroitly conceived for the stage the libretto was." He added: "I inquired today at [an outlet of the music publisher] Ricordi's if this opera had been published. They did not give me a definite answer but said that it was hardly likely to be available in print" (see Letter 973, 21 November/3 December 1878). Despite the uncertainty expressed at Ricordi's, a vocal score of Mermet's Jeanne d'Arc (i.e. a score showing all the singing parts and a piano arrangement of the orchestral part) had, in fact, been published in Paris in 1876 by a rival publishing house, Choudens. Tchaikovsky's wish (which he also mentions in that letter) to acquire a copy of Mermet's libretto in the French capital could, therefore, be realised either through obtaining the booklet of words itself, or the vocal score of the opera.
  6. 6.0 6.1 The orchestral composition that, when eventually completed, would be his Suite No. 1 in D minor, Op. 43.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Nadezhda von Meck had an especially high regard for Galileo. Writing to Tchaikovsky from Moscow the previous year (on 29 November/11 December 1877) she had shown herself impressed by that scientist's courage in maintaining the truth even in the face of persecution. She noted that she also aspired to that courage (П. И. Чайковский. Переписка с Н. Ф. фон-Мекк, том 1 (1934), p. 105).