Tchaikovsky Research

Odessa, or Odesa (Одеса), is a seaport and resort city on the Black Sea coast, and the fourth-largest city in Ukraine, being the capital of the Odesa district (Одеська міськрада) and Odesa oblast (Одеська область).

During Tchaikovsky's lifetime it was the administrative centre of the Odessa district (Одесский уезд) in the Kherson Province (Херсонская губерния) of the Russian Empire.

Tchaikovsky in Odessa

Tchaikovsky visited Odessa on two occasions:

From Until Notes
11/23 July 1887 12/24 July 1887 The composer was impressed on his arrival in Odessa, attending a concert in the city gardens, and visiting the cathedral the next day. He found the latter to be "Grand, but not appealing. The singing was unimpressive, and the selection simply disgraceful. As always I was enraged by the singing. It's only in the countryside that I can listen without being furious" [1].
12/24 January 1893 25 January/6 February 1893 Rehearsing and conducting five concerts (see below), as well as attending rehearsals and a production of The Queen of Spades by Ivan Grekov's opera company (19/31 January). During his stay in the city he was also guest of honour at a dinner in the English Club, and he sat for a portrait by the leading artist Nikolay Kuznetsov. "Odessa is a very attractive city, but this current winter is as severe as in the north, and it therefore resembles any northern city in the midst of winter. The sea was frozen for whole tens of versts " [2].


Tchaikovsky's concert schedule in Odessa was as follows:

16/28 January 1893 The first Russian Musical Society symphony concert, including the fantasia The Tempest, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E♭ major by Franz Liszt (soloist Sophie Menter, conductor Vasily Sapelnikov), the Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1, Variations on a Rococo Theme (soloist Wladyslaw Alois), and the Suite from The Nutcracker ballet.
21 January/2 February 1893 A charity concert at the Rishelyevskaya School to raise funds for poor students, including two movements from the Suite from The Nutcracker.
22 January/3 February 1893 A charity concert of the Slavonic Society, including the Elegy for string orchestra, the Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1, and the Waltz from the Serenade for String Orchestra.
23 January/4 February 1893 The second Russian Musical Society symphony concert, including the Symphony No. 1 by Aleksandr Borodin, the Violin Concerto in F♯ minor (Op. 23) by Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (soloist Konstantin Gavrilov), the Scherzo for orchestra by Porfiry Molchanov, the Ungarische Zigeunerweisen by Sophie Menter (conducted by Vasily Sapelnikov), and Tchaikovsky's own overture The Year 1812.
24 January/5 February 1893 The third Russian Musical Society symphony concert, including The Tempest, the Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1, the Suite from The Nutcracker ballet, the Ungarische Zigeunerweisen by Sophie Menter (conducted by Natan Emmanuel), and the songs Not a Word o My Friend (No. 2 of Six Romances, Op. 6) and Don Juan's Serenade (No. 1 of Six Romances, Op. 38), both sung by Aleksandr Antonovsky.

Afterwards the composer wrote: "Never have I been so exhausted from conducting as in Odessa because I had to conduct five concerts, but nowhere have I been so praised and feted as here. It's a pity that you don't have Odessan newspapers to hand, or you would have learned how much Odessa exaggerates my merits. There were many intolerable burdensome hours (e.g. a celebration dinner at the English club), but also many gratifying ones. Could I ever be lauded one tenth as much in the capitals as I was in Odessa! But that is impossible, and unnecessary anyway" [3].


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Notes and References

  1. Diary entry for 12/24 July 1887.
  2. Letter 4850 to Anna Merkling, 24 January/5 February 1893. One Russian verst is equivalent to 1.06 km or 3,500 feet.
  3. Letter 4852 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 28 January/9 February 1893.