New York

Tchaikovsky Research

New York is the largest city in the United States of America, and part of the state of New York.

Tchaikovsky visited New York in 1891, on his only tour of North America. The main purpose of his visit was to conduct his own works in the opening week of Andrew Carnegie's new Music Hall (now known as Carnegie Hall).

Tchaikovsky in New York

The main points of his itinerary were as follows:

Date Notes
14/26 April 1891 Arriving from Le Havre on the steam ship La Bretagne, Tchaikovsky spent his first night at the Hôtel Normandie.
15/27 April 1891 He met the conductor Walter Damrosch, and went to a rehearsal of his concert at the new Music Hall (now Carnegie Hall) on 25 April/7 May. "I managed to rehearse only the first and third movements of the suite. The orchestra is excellent" [1]. That same day he wrote to his sister-in-law Praskovya Tchaikovskaya, "New York is a very beautiful and very original city. On the main street single-storey cottages alternate with houses of 9 floors. Everything is already green, and there's so much greenery" [2].
16/28 April 1891 He attended the premiere of the Hungarian composer Max Vogrich's oratorio The Captivity. "More banal and mediocre music I've never heard" [3].
18/30 April 1891 He attended a choral rehearsal at the Music Hall. "The chorus met me with an ovation. The singing was very good" [4].
19 April/1 May 1891 He was taken on a tour of the Treasury building, and wrote the article Wagner and His Music (TH 319) for the Morning Journal newspaper. He also attended a musical soirée at the home of the Austrian-born music critic, William von Sachs.
20 April/2 May 1891 Further orchestral rehearsals at the Music Hall in the morning, and with the soloist Adele aus der Ohe in the afternoon.
21 April/3 May 1891 More rehearsals with the choir in the morning. In the afternoon, "Rather reluctantly, I went with von Sachs to see Schirmer again, who had extracted from me a promise to return" [5].
22 April/4 May 1891 After more rehearsals with Adele aus der Ohe, Tchaikovsky went sight-seeing in the city. "I like New York more and more. Incidentally, there's a magnificent Central Park here. And remarkably people of my age can remember very well when cows used to graze on its site. I go to rehearsals almost every day. The new hall, in which the festival is to take place, is magnificent, and its size surpasses any halls we have" [6].
23 April/5 May 1891 At the opening concert of the Music Hall, Tchaikovsky conducted his Coronation March. The march went off splendidly. A great success" [7].
24 April/6 May 1891 Rehearsing the Suite No. 3 for the following day's concert.
25 April/7 May 1891 On his fifty-first birthday, Tchaikovsky conducted his Suite No. 3 at the new Music Hall. "In the morning I was terribly worried about this day. At 2 o'clock I had to conduct the concert with the suite. This particular fear is a extraordinary thing. How many times have I conducted this self same suite! It goes splendidly; why am I afraid? [...] I finally emerged, was again received superbly and produced, according to today's newspapers, a sensation" [8].
26 April/8 May 1891 Rehearsals of the Piano Concerto No. 1 for the next day's concert. "I was angered by Damrosch, who used up the better part of the time, leaving only leftovers for me" [9]. Later Tchaikovsky conducted his choruses Our Father (No. 6 from the Nine Church Pieces) and Legend at another Music Hall concert. "The little choruses went well, but would have gone better had I not been so flustered and nervous." [10].
27 April/9 May 1891 In a daytime concert at the Music Hall, Adele aus der Ohe performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, under the composer's direction. "My concerto, in an excellent performance by Adele aus der Ohe, went magnificently. I have never managed to rouse such enthusiasm in Russia. I was called for endlessly, with cries of upwards and waving of handkerchiefs—in short, it was evident that I am indeed loved by the Americans. The orchestra's enthusiasm was especially precious to me" [11]. In the evening, Tchaikovsky attended a performance of Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt at the Music Hall.

On 29 April/11 May, Tchaikovsky left New York to visit Niagara Falls, returning on 1/13 May. The following day he left again for conducting engagements in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Date Notes
7/19 May 1891 He returned to New York from Philadelphia.
8/20 May 1891 He attended a celebration dinner at the Metropolitan Opera, given in his honour by the Composer's Club. "I sat through the first item. They played the quartet in E♭ minor, the trio, and sang some romances, which were performed beautifully (Mist-s Alwes), and so on. In the middle part of the evening Madame Smyth read me an address; I replied briefly in French; acknowledgements, ovations" [12].
9/21 May 1891 At 5 p.m. Tchaikovsky left the port of New York on the Fürst Bismarck, at the end of his American tour.


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Notes and References

  1. Diary entry for 15/27 April 1891.
  2. Letter 4368 to Praskovya Tchaikovskaya, 15/27 April 1891.
  3. Diary entry for 16/28 April 1891.
  4. Diary entry for 18/30 April 1891.
  5. Diary entry for 21 April/3 May 1891.
  6. Letter 4372 to Nikolay Konradi, 22 April/4 May 1891.
  7. Diary entry for 23 April/5 May 1891.
  8. Diary entry for 25 April/7 May 1891.
  9. Diary entry for 26 April/8 May 1891.
  10. Diary entry for 26 April/8 May 1891.
  11. Diary entry for 27 April/9 May 1891.
  12. Diary entry for 8/20 May 1891.