Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888

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Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888 (Автобиографическое описание путешествия за границу в 1888 году) [1] (TH 316 ; ČW 674) records Tchaikovsky's experiences of his first concert tour to Western Europe as the conductor of his own works.

This unfinished diary-article, which Tchaikovsky (as he put it), started to write in order to show readers at home how "in the course of three months a Russian musician acquitted himself with honour in holding aloft the banner of our native art in all the music centres of Europe" (see Note 1 below), covers mainly his stays in the German cities where he conducted concerts featuring his own works— Leipzig (24 December 1887/5 January 1888), Hamburg (8/20 January), and Berlin (27 January/8 February). It breaks off just as he was about to describe in more detail his stay in Prague (where Tchaikovsky received the most enthusiastic welcome, met Dvořák for the first time, and conducted concerts on 7/19 and 9/21 February), and therefore it does not even mention the last two stops of this tour: Paris (where he gave concerts on 16/28 February, 21 February/4 March, and 28 February/11 March, and also met Gounod and Massenet for the first time) and London (concert on 10/22 March). Nevertheless the thirteen complete chapters which he did set down on paper form a unique personal and historical document


The narrative is divided into 14 chapters which deal with the following main topics:

  • Chapter I. Tchaikovsky makes his professional début as a conductor at the première of Cherevichki at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on 19/31 January 1887; confesses his misgivings about directing an orchestra, due to his shyness and lack of confidence; recalls how his friends encouraged him to overcome these fears, thus paving the way for his first concert tour to Western Europe within less than a year
  • Chapter II. He achieves further successes conducting performances of his own works in Russia; receives invitations from various European cities; reflects on what he had hoped to achieve with this tour—not just to extend his own reputation, but also to make the works of other Russian composers known in Europe
  • Chapter III. He arrives in Berlin on 17/29 December 1887 to negotiate with the director of the Philharmonic Society, as well as with an over-enthusiastic concert agent (Mr N.), who puts him in an embarrassing situation
  • Chapter IV. He arrives in Leipzig on 19/31 December 1887 and is met at the station by Adolph Brodsky and Aleksandr Ziloti; acknowledges his gratitude to Brodsky for having premièred his Violin Concerto in Vienna in 1881 and subsequently championed it, despite the hostility of critics like Hanslick, who had rubbished the work as "stinking music"; Tchaikovsky forgets his home-sickness in the cosy family circle of the violinist and his wife Anna
  • Chapter V. On New Year's Day, 1 January 1888 [N.S.], he meets Johannes Brahms for the first time, at Adolph Brodsky's house; gives a remarkable portrait of Brahms, comparing his appearance to that of a "benign Russian priest"; emphasizes Brahms's noble character, modesty, and kindness (citing his support for Dvořák), but explains why his music left him cold and why it could never become popular in Russia especially; regrets in retrospect that he had not tried to get to know Brahms better
  • Chapter VI. On the same day, 1 January 1888 [N.S.], he also meets Edvard Grieg, for whom he feels an immediate sympathy; describes their "sincere friendship" founded on "spiritual affinity", as well as the emotions which Grieg's music, with all its "warmth and passion" and feeling for Nature, awakened in him; he is equally charmed by Nina Hagerup Grieg; he also meets the "eccentric" English composer Ethel Smyth and her dog; that evening he attends the première of Brahms's Double Concerto in the Gewandhaus, but, as always, his music makes "no impression" on him; he is astonished by the quality of Leipzig's St Thomas Choir (Thomanerchor)
  • Chapter VII. He conducts the Suite No. 1 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 5 January 1888 [N.S.]; Carl Reinecke introduces him to the famous Gewandhaus orchestra; his rehearsals are attended by Brahms and Grieg, who congratulates him enthusiastically; he is invited to dinner at Reinecke's house where the veteran musician shares with him recollections of Schumann
  • Chapter VIII. On 6 January 1888 [N.S.], Tchaikovsky attends a chamber music concert organized in his honour by the Liszt Society (Liszt-Verein) in Leipzig and featuring just his own works; he sits next to Grieg and his wife during the concert, leading to an amusing anecdote; he hears the young Czech violinist Karel Haliř play his Violin Concerto; he is delighted to find that the younger members of the Liszt Society are all very interested in Russian music (in particular, Balakirev's Islamey)
  • Chapter IX. Further impressions of Leipzig; he meets Arthur Nikisch, whom he considers to be "a conductor of genius" after hearing him conduct two Wagner operas; he also meets Ferruccio Busoni, whose striving after German 'depth' awakens some apprehensions in him; he reflects on the decline of Italian music, caused above all by the younger generation of Italian composers feeling ashamed of the essential qualities of their people's musical genius, and suggests a way out of this impasse; he is honoured with a serenade by a Leipzig military band, despite the prevailing Russophobia in Germany at the time
  • Chapter X. Tchaikovsky recalls gratefully the "great services" that Hans von Bülow had rendered him in the past; he conducts a concert at the Hamburg Conventgarten on 20 January 1888 [N.S.] where his music does not go down so well with the conservative audience; he is delighted by the brilliant performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1 by the young Russian pianist Vasily Sapelnikov; after the concert he goes on a 'drinking-spree' with some of Hamburg's most venerable musicians
  • Chapter XI. Still in Hamburg, he meets the future dedicatee of his Fifth Symphony, the eighty-year-old Theodor Avé-Lallemant, who criticizes his music and tries to persuade Tchaikovsky to settle in Germany, where he would become "a proper composer"; he also meets the young critic Josef Sittard, who attacks him for "musical nihilism" but with whom he nevertheless also parts as good friends; he reflects on how the cult of Brahms was rooted in the essentially conservative German public's need for a new "hero" to carry the mantle of Beethoven and Schumann, and how "in default of a true genius" Brahms was better than nothing
  • Chapter XII. He conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on 8 February 1888 [N.S.] and reflects on the unique qualities of this orchestra, in particular what he calls its "elasticity"; he bitterly laments the death of Iosif Kotek a few years earlier; together with Grieg, he visits Désirée Artôt and finds her "as enchanting as ever"
  • Chapter XIII. he reflects on why he was given such a "hero's welcome" in Prague, the next stop of his European tour, when he conducted a concert there on 19 February 1888 [N.S.]; he emphasizes the great sympathy which the Czechs felt for Russia, even if at first glance these two Slavic nations seemed to have so little in common
  • Chapter XIV. Tchaikovsky's account unfortunately breaks off abruptly here


Written between February and April 1888 (unfinished).

English translation

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Chapter I

In 1886 my opera Cherevichki was scheduled for performance on the stage of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The stage decorations, which had been sumptuously designed and painted by the highly talented Muscovite master K. Valts [3], were quite ready, as was the whole splendid scenery, on which, following the approval of I. A. Vsevolozhsky a year earlier, a very large sum of money had been spent, and, likewise, the entire musical material of the opera was also ready. So while I was staying in a village near the town of Klin, I was waiting all the time for a letter to arrive inviting me to Moscow, to attend the first rehearsal. However, the season was coming to an end, there were just a few weeks left until Shrove-tide, and still no sign of the expected invitation.

During that winter business at the opera-house in Moscow was suspended to some extent because the music director I. K. Altani was incapacitated by illness for several months. Starting from December 1885, music-lovers in Moscow kept hoping week after week that this esteemed artist, who was gradually recovering from his illness, would finally be able to return to his conductor's rostrum, where the splendid choir-master U. I. Avranek [4] was standing in for him, even though it did mean that the latter was strained almost to breaking-point by having to do two jobs at the same time. However, I. K. Altani's illness, which so many times in the course of those months had seemed to be subsiding and entering a phase of recovery, relentlessly continued to confine him to bed and prevented him from resuming his obligations at the theatre. When I was already beginning to realise that it was very unlikely that Cherevichki would be presented to the scrutiny of the Muscovite public during the 1885–86 season and was resigning myself to the thought that the staging of my opera would have to be postponed until the following season, there happened something quite unexpected. The Imperial Theatres' Directorate received a proposal from a young Muscovite musician [5], who stated that he was perfectly willing to cover for Mr Altani during the latter's absence and also to rehearse the difficult score of my opera with the theatre's orchestra so that it could eventually be performed.

I was immediately notified of this proposal, and P. M. P, who was then at the head of the theatre management in Moscow, asked me to confirm whether I was willing to entrust this young musician with the task of overseeing the rehearsals and conducting the orchestra during the first run of performances of Cherevichki. Since I set great store by the friendly interest which I. K. Altani had shown for my work as a composer over many years, not to mention his invaluable experience and talent, I categorically rejected the proposal of this young musician who wanted to take the place of my esteemed friend on the conductor's rostrum. But as at the same time I did not wish the Imperial Theatres' Directorate to meet with any obstructions on my part in case they considered it essential, for their own good and profit, to have my opera staged immediately, I took the heroic decision to offer my own services as a conductor [6]. My offer was gratefully and sympathetically received, but, due to a coincidence of various special circumstances, the première of my opera Cherevichki could not take place during the 1885–86 season after all.

By the time the idea of staging Cherevichki was again put on the agenda early on in the following season, I. K. Altani had already made a complete recovery, and so there seemed to be no need any longer for me to test myself as a conductor. However, several people at the head of the theatre management, I. K. Altani himself, and my numerous friends in Moscow still wanted me to direct the orchestra at the rehearsals and the first public performance of my opera. For a long time it had been generally accepted that I had no talent whatsoever for conducting, and I myself believed in my utter inability for this kind of work all the more obstinately and irrevocably, given that my two modest attempts at conquering my morbid shyness and appearing before the Muscovite public with a baton in my hand ended most unsuccessfully, to my utter disgrace [7]. If, in spite of all this, my well-wishers, including I. K. Altani, sought to overcome my lack of confidence in myself, if they wanted me in my declining years to try once again to become a conductor, they did so of course out of the sincerest feelings of friendship towards me and out of the conviction that my hopelessness as a conductor had always been a huge hindrance for the popularization of my works, and that, if by dint of a most arduous inner struggle I did manage to overcome myself and succeeded in conducting, if only tolerably well, this or that work of mine, then the result of these efforts would be a strong boost for the gradual dissemination of my numerous compositions and a swift increase of my reputation as a composer.

Armed with the fervent support of my friends, with invaluable advice and indications from I. K. Altani, as well as with a strong faith in the goodwill of the Muscovite public, which had encouraged me in my first steps as a composer, and which since then had never denied me its warm sympathy, at 8 p.m. on the 19th of January 1887, I mounted the rostrum in front of the orchestra of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre and safely got through the first performance of the opera Cherevichki.

I was already well into my forty-sixth year then. At such an age a real, professional music director who is a born conductor can boast, apart from those qualities which depend on the calibre of his innate gifts, many years of experience, too. If one bears in mind that I did not have any such experience, then my début can certainly be called successful. To this day I still think that I lack a true talent for conducting. I know that I do not possess that sum total of moral and physical qualities which make someone who is a musician in general into a conductor first and foremost, but, still, this and all subsequent attempts proved that I can more or less successfully conduct my own works—and that was precisely what I needed to cap my prosperity [8].

I have considered it necessary to recount in such detail the story of my first attempt as a conductor because amongst the countless beneficial consequences which ensued from it was my three-month concert tour of Western Europe. I cannot help being proud of the successful results achieved by the latter, and I have decided to give an account of it for the Russian public because—apart from Glinka [9], who just gave one concert in Paris, and also A. G. Rubinstein, who thanks to his virtuosic genius made his mark abroad long ago and has since then enjoyed the right of citizenship on the stages and concert podiums of the whole world—I was fated to be the first Russian composer to acquaint foreigners personally with his own works. I make so bold as to assume that there are a sufficient number of readers who might be interested in this account.

Chapter II

One and a half months after experience had shown that it was within my powers to conduct an orchestra in an opera, I also had to put myself to the test on a concert podium. On the 5th of March 1887, in the Hall of the Nobility in Saint Petersburg, a concert of the Philharmonic Society took place whose programme consisted exclusively of my own works, and which I conducted myself [10]. This attempt, too, was crowned with success. To my profound astonishment, I heard from the lips of people whose judgement I fully trust such flattering comments about my conducting, that my heart began to pound joyfully, and I could not help feeling proud about having gained this victory over myself—over that cruelly tormenting and painful moral ailment which I have suffered from so much during all my life, and whose name is shyness!

One very well-known music critic, who has never kept within bounds in his judgements about me—the same critic in fact who once hailed my début as a composer with the following words: "Mr Tchaikovsky is quite useless, he doesn't have a spark of talent" [11]—that very same formidable, angry, but never hypocritical feuilleton arbiter said about me, again exaggerating the truth so much as to distort it completely, that I was a "superb" conductor. But I did not believe him this time round either, just as back then I refused to believe in his verdict about my absolute lack of talent. A 47-year-old man who is making his first public appearances with a baton in hand simply cannot be a "superb" conductor—indeed, he cannot even hope to become one, even if he had the requisite natural gifts, and I know very well that my innate timidity, weakness of character, and lack of self-confidence will always prevent me from being able, as a conductor, to rival Wagner [12], Bülow [13], or Nápravník.

I repeat: for me the only thing that mattered was that I was capable of directing an orchestra in performances of my works no worse than any other middling conductor. I could foresee that, thanks to this victory over my incapacity, the opportunity would present itself for me to propagandize my works both at home and abroad, and very soon this prescience of mine would be borne out in practice. In June I received an invitation from the Philharmonic Society in Hamburg to come to their city at the end of January 1888, in order to oversee the performance of some of my works. Shortly afterwards I received similar invitations from Vienna, Dresden, Copenhagen, Prague, Leipzig, Berlin, and London. As for Paris, Félix Mackar, who owned the French rights to my works, had already exacted the promise from me some time ago that during that winter season I would come to Paris and conduct at a concert which he intended to organize. The very natural aspiration to extend as far as possible my reputation as a composer did not prevent me from cherishing the hope that I would be able to do Russian art a good turn by also propagandizing the works of other Russian composers.

Imagining that my financial means were sufficient for me to give on my own account a "Russian Concert" in Paris which would be adorned by the names of Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Serov, Rubinstein, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Lyadov, and Arensky, I resolved firmly that, apart from the concert being organized by M. Mackar (whose programme was to be exclusively drawn from my works), I would also give a second concert featuring works by the abovementioned composers, whereby it was extremely flattering and agreeable for me to entertain the thought that I would be acting as an interpreter of the beauties of our Russian music for a French public that was seized with fervent sympathy for all things Russian [14].

On the eve of my departure I spent a few hours in the company of three musical friends of mine whom I think very highly of—N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, A. K. Lyadov, and A. K. Glazunov—and we drew up together a very detailed programme for the enterprise I had come up with. Thus, before setting off from Saint Petersburg I had worked out the following plan in my mind: (1) that I would conduct performances of my own works in Leipzig, Dresden, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, and London; (2) and that I would give two concerts in Paris, of which the first, devoted exclusively to my own music, was being organized by M. Mackar, and the second was to be organized by myself and paid for with my own funds. Furthermore, during the two months that preceded my departure I exchanged many letters with a certain Mr N. [15], a foreign concert agent who displayed a particularly fervent, indeed almost unbridled zeal with regard to me and the task of getting my works to become acclimatized abroad—a zeal which went so far that he even thought it feasible for me to give concerts in a number of provincial German and Austrian towns.

Obviously, Mr N. was by far exaggerating the interest which my music could possibly awaken in our two neighbouring Empires, and since already then I had a vague notion that Mr N. was going a bit over the top in his zeal on my behalf, I said that I would postpone my decision whether or not to accept his proposals until we had actually met in Germany, as agreed. When we did finally meet there, I saw that I was dealing with a very peculiar and strange person whose character to this day still remains a mystery to me.

Whether it was due to inexperience and incompetence, or to an innate lack of practical sense combined with tactlessness, or whether it was the result of some abnormal, unhealthy state of mind on his part, I cannot tell, but the point is that Mr N., despite being to all appearance my devoted friend, somehow contrived on a number of occasions to act against my interests. Yes, he did render me several very important services for which my gratitude towards him will never be erased from my heart as long as I live, but at the same time he was responsible for the fact that in the course of my tour I experienced quite a few significant nuisances and vexations. As I said, to this day I still have not managed to form a clear judgement of this strange figure, in which everything seemed enigmatic to me: his nationality (he calls himself a Russian, but speaks our language poorly), his position in society, and especially his motives in the way he treated me, i.e. at some points displaying an excessive zeal on behalf of my artistic interests (whereby he understood the latter in a very subjective way!), in other instances harassing me with various tricks that were positively harmful to me, and on yet other occasions rendering me genuinely valuable services. Be that as it may, I should point out here that it was precisely thanks to his initiative that I received those invitations to Leipzig, Prague, and Copenhagen.

However, in the end I did not make it to Copenhagen because of lack of time; the concert in Dresden also didn't come off as a result of Mr N.'s quirks and lack of practical sense; and neither was I able to acquaint the citizens of Vienna with my music, since my concert there had been scheduled for a day on which it was essential for me to be in Paris. Finally, it goes without saying that Mr N.'s incomprehensibly bizarre idea of forcing me to saunter about various small provincial German towns, conducting their miniature orchestras, which would have been quite incapable of playing my complicated and difficult scores, did not come to fruition either. As for the "Russian Concert" I had wanted to organize in Paris, that turned out to be a childishly impossible dream, which I shall come back to in more detail later on. Thus, my concert-touring activities were limited to just Leipzig, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Paris, and London. Now I shall proceed with my account.

Chapter III

I left Saint Petersburg on the 15th of December 1887, and arrived in Berlin on the 17th (29th) of December. Here I was due to meet the director (the Vorsteher) of the Berlin Philharmonic Society, Herr Schneider, who had previously been in touch with me by post regarding the concert I was to conduct in February, and whose programme was to consist exclusively of my own works. A personal meeting was required because we had to go through the details of the programme, which did not promise to be a very easy task, given that Herr Schneider, who was seeking to cater to the Berlin public's tastes (for my own sake in fact!), was not quite at one with me regarding the choice of works and indeed wished to include in the programme some pieces which I didn't want to have performed at the concert, whilst at the same time showing great reluctance to include those works which I was most proud of, and which, if played by the splendid Berlin orchestra, would have shown me to best advantage. However, on this occasion I did not actually get to meet Herr Schneider, for the following reason:

In the newspaper which the waiter brought me together with my breakfast tea, I read, to my utter dismay, these lines: "Today, on the 29th of January, the Russian composer Herr Tchaikovsky will be coming to Berlin. His numerous friends (?) and admirers (?) are planning to give a brunch (Frühschoppen) in his honour at so-and-so a restaurant on such-and-such a street, at so-and-so o'clock". I should point out that when I was still in Saint Petersburg Mr N. had informed me about this Frühschoppen in one of his letters and even sent me a copy of the invitation which he had distributed in Berlin, in which all music-lovers, artists, and even compatriots of mine living in Berlin were invited to come at an appointed hour to one of the city's most famous restaurants. Moreover, Mr N. had also warned them in this invitation that I was "very modest", and that I wished this celebration to be a very cosy and friendly get-together.

Now upon receiving that letter in Saint Petersburg, I had immediately telegraphed to Mr N. that I categorically refused to accept such a celebration, and that under no circumstances would I come to this "friendly" Frühschoppen. This notwithstanding, it now turned out, as I could see from the newspaper, that Mr N., in his inordinate zeal, had not relented at all—on the contrary, he had even publicized the day of my arrival in the newspapers! Fortunately, Mr N. didn't know at which hotel I was staying, and I decided not to inform him about my arrival in Berlin until the following day. I assume that my readers will understand why this trick of Mr N., who very sincerely wished to do me a favour, but who had a very subjective way of selecting the best means to achieve this, was so apt to embarrass me, nay, to frighten and even terrify me.

For the sake of those readers who are not so familiar with the attitude of the public in foreign countries towards Russian composers, I merely wish to observe that not only do I not have "numerous admirers" in Berlin, but that hardly anyone knows my music over there, or at least that was the case until quite recently. True, some of my symphonic works had been played in Berlin now and then, and Bilse [16], in his popular concerts, had often performed the Andante from my Quartet[17]; but that was it as far as the acquaintance of the citizens of Berlin with the works of yours truly was concerned, and there could be no question of my having "numerous friends and admirers" in this city, where I was a complete stranger, where, apart from Herr Hugo Bock, the head of the firm Bote & Bock, I did not have a single acquaintance, and all the more so given that those few works of mine which had been performed in Berlin previously did not achieve any particularly outstanding success and did not by any means receive unanimously positive reviews in the press.

This idea which Mr. N. had of honouring me in Berlin with some sort of Frühschoppen is ever so typical of the strangeness, absurdity, and inexplicable thoughtlessness of this man's conduct in his dealings with me, even if it must be said that he wished me well sincerely, so it seems, and that he showed incredible zeal and enthusiasm in devoting all his time and all his thoughts to the task of making my name popular amongst the German public. Anyway, the consequence of all this I have been setting forth above was that in Berlin I felt, as it were, ashamed. It seemed to me that the whole music world of Berlin must be laughing at me and imagining, perhaps, that I myself had wanted to arrange, with the help of Mr N., this quite undeserved celebration in my honour. I did not wish to meet anyone at all in the German capital, and the following day, after seeing Mr N. and having it out with him, and then calling on K. Yu. Davydov (who was then on his way through Berlin, and whom I was very glad and pleased to meet), I set off for Leipzig, which was in fact the starting-point of my artistic itinerary through Western Europe [18].

Chapter IV

In Leipzig I was welcomed by three fellow-countrymen and one local critic. The compatriots in question were: A. D. Brodsky, A. I. Ziloti, and Arthur Friedheim [19]. Of these, the first two are familiar names to the Russian public, especially to people in Moscow. I have been bound to A. D. Brodsky by a close friendship of many years' standing: he belonged to the professorial staff of the Moscow Conservatory for some time and was in fact a colleague of mine when I was still teaching music theory there. In 1877, A. D. Brodsky left Moscow and spent one season as director of the Russian Musical Society branch in Kiev, after which he travelled abroad for a while before he was finally appointed to the distinguished post of professor of violin at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he has managed to win universal respect and affection, both as a man and as an artist.

In referring to this outstanding artist, I cannot help availing myself of this opportunity to express publicly the fervent gratitude which to my dying day I shall always feel for him because of the following incident. In 1877 [20], I wrote a Violin Concerto and dedicated it to Mr L. Auer. I do not know whether Mr Auer felt himself flattered by my dedication, but the point is that, in spite of his genuine friendliness towards me, he never wanted to surmount the difficulties of this concerto and in fact pronounced it to be impossible to play—a verdict which, coming from such an authority as this Saint Petersburg-based virtuoso, plunged this unhappy child of my imagination into an abyss of what seemed to be irrevocable oblivion.

One day, some five years after my concerto had been written and published, when I was living in Rome, I went into a café and happened to pick up an issue of the Neue Freie Presse [21] in whose feuilleton section there was an article by the famous critic Hanslick [22] about a recent concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Society which, amongst other things, had also featured that hapless violin creation of mine which L. S. Auer had condemned to non-existence a few years earlier. Herr Hanslick reproached the soloist (who was none other than A. D. Brodsky) [23] for having made such a bad choice and lambasted my poor concerto, liberally strewing the pearls of his caustic humour and firing the most poisoned arrows of his irony. "We know," he wrote, "that in contemporary literature there have started to appear works whose authors love to reproduce in detail the most repulsive physiological phenomena, including foul smells. One might describe literature of that kind as stinking. Well, Herr Tschaikowsky has shown us that there can also be stinking music [stinkende Musik]" [24].

Having read the above comment by this famous and highly influential critic, I could vividly picture to myself how much energy and effort it must have cost Mr Brodsky to get my "stinking concerto" performed by the Vienna Philharmonic, and how aggrieved and unpleasantly struck he must have been by this attitude of a critic towards a work by a fellow-countryman and friend. I of course hastened to convey my most heartfelt gratitude to Mr Brodsky, and from his reply I found out how many trials and tribulations he had had to get through in order to achieve his goal—and his goal was precisely to rescue my concerto from the abyss of oblivion. Mr Brodsky subsequently played the "stinking" concerto everywhere, and was everywhere attacked by critics similar to Hanslick in their approach and their exclusivity of tone, but still the deed was done—my concerto had been saved, and now it is quite frequently played in Western Europe, especially since another excellent violinist, the young Haliř [25], has come to the aid of Mr Brodsky (further down I shall have a lot to say about this young violinist).

It should now be understandable why I was so pleased to meet A. D. Brodsky in Leipzig, where I had never been before and otherwise had no friends amongst the locals, and to know that, throughout all the emotional agitation and even fears that were lying ahead of me on this tour, I could count on the moral support of his warm and firm friendship of many years' standing. No less was my joy at meeting the young but already very famous pianist A. I. Ziloti. I had known him as a little boy when he became a student at the Moscow Conservatory, where in fact he completed some parts of the composition course under my supervision. Since then Mr Ziloti, who studied piano with N. G. Rubinstein, and after the latter's death with F. Liszt, has made a great name for himself in Russia and in Germany, especially in Leipzig, where he has been living now for a number of years, from time to time giving concerts in other German cities and in Russia, too.

Like A. D. Brodsky, this young artist had rendered me many friendly services and had done a great deal towards making my works known in Germany. It was thanks to him that I now encountered in Leipzig a circle of musicians who did me the honour of taking a strong interest in my music, and this fact was of great consequence to me because I had come to Leipzig—a city renowned for its vehement conservatism in general and for its musical Russophobia in particular—with a feeling that I was, as it were, entering an enemy camp where I had been decoyed by those who wanted to laugh and scoff at me. Of course, in this feeling I had there was a great deal of morbid anxiety and colossal exaggeration, since, as the reader will see below, the Germans generally and the citizens of Leipzig specifically by no means hate us so monstrously as many people think. However, I just wanted to record the fact that I had been suffering greatly from this sense of an (imaginary) hostility towards me on the part of Leipzig, and that it was highly comforting for me now to find myself surrounded by people who knew my music very well, and who felt the warmest sympathy towards the latter as well as to its author.

The third compatriot who greeted me on my arrival in Leipzig was the talented pianist Arthur Friedheim, a native of Saint Petersburg who studied with Liszt, and who had now been living in Leipzig for quite a while. As for the local critic who had also come to the railway station to meet me, that was Herr Martin Krause, a very authoritative music critic who wrote for the Leipziger Tageblattand whose great interest in my music was extremely flattering to me. He was also very good friends with A. I. Ziloti.

On arriving in Leipzig, the weather I encountered was very much like that of a harsh Russian winter. There was a thick layer of snow on the streets, and I had barely got off the train when I found myself being driven in a sledge of a very peculiar construction to a New Year's Eve party in A. D. Brodsky's house. There I found myself in a purely Russian atmosphere, embellished by the presence of two exceptionally likeable Russian women—the wife [26] and sister-in-law of my host. Since over the last few years I had been living in Russia almost uninterruptedly and had become quite unaccustomed to long stays abroad, the very minute that I crossed the Russian border I was seized by a tormenting home-sickness, and words are not sufficiently strong to describe the soothing comfort which I experienced that evening, and which I would subsequently experience each time during my three stays in Leipzig whenever I had the chance to spend a few hours in A. D. Brodsky's domestic circle. Just as agreeable were my visits to A. I. Ziloti, freshly married to a girl whom I had known almost as a child back in Moscow, and to whom I had been linked by quite close family ties for a number of years [27].

Chapter V

The following day after my arrival in Leipzig, I made two extraordinarily interesting new acquaintances. At about 1 p.m., as I walked into A. D. Brodsky's house, where I had been asked to dinner, I heard the sounds of a piano, violin, and cello. It turned out that this was a rehearsal for a performance, scheduled for the following day, of a new trio [28] by Brahms in which the piano part was to be played by the composer himself. Thus it was that for the first time in my life I met the most famous living German composer.

Brahms is of short stature, with an imposing portliness and a most likeable appearance. His comely head, almost like that of an old man, reminds one of a benign, handsome elderly Russian priest's head. Brahms does not at all possess the characteristic traits of a handsome German [29], and it is incomprehensible to me why some ethnographic scholar (I was told this by Brahms himself after I mentioned to him the impression which his appearance had produced on me) decided to select his likeness for the frontispiece illustration of a book or atlas of the most characteristic Germanic facial features. A certain softness of contours, agreeably rounded lines, rather long and thin grey hair, kindly grey eyes, a thick beard much flecked with white—all this reminds one far more of the type of a pure-blooded Great Russian, as it is often encountered amongst our clergy. Brahms has a very homely manner, without any arrogance whatsoever; he has a jovial temperament, and the few hours which I spent in his company have left me with very pleasant memories [...] [30]

Unfortunately, I must confess that, in spite of the considerable amount of time we spent together in Leipzig, I was not able to become close friends with the most outstanding representative of contemporary German music. The reason for this is as follows: like all of my Russian musical friends without an exception, I just respect Brahms as an honest, principled, and energetic musician, but, however much I have wished it were otherwise, I have never been able to like his music and never shall be [31]. Brahmsism is very widespread in Germany—there are lots of authoritative figures and even entire musical institutions which have devoted themselves to the cult of Brahms, and which consider him to be an eminence of the very first rank, almost the equal of Beethoven. Nevertheless, even in Germany there are anti-Brahmsians, and as for other countries it is a fact that everywhere—with the exception perhaps of London (where, thanks to the energetic propaganda carried out on his behalf by the violinist Joachim [32], who is incredibly popular amongst the English, Brahms's greatness is recognized up to a certain point)—everywhere, I say, Brahms's music is completely ignored and disregarded.

However, it seems that nowhere has Brahms managed to catch on so little as in our country [33]. In the music of this master there is something dry, cold, nebulous, and vague which repels the Russian heart. From our point of view, there is no melodic inventiveness whatsoever in Brahms; his musical thoughts are never fully articulated; no sooner have you heard a hint of an easily perceptible melodic phrase than the latter has already gone under in a maelstrom of insignificant harmonic progressions and modulations, as if the composer had deliberately set himself the task of being unintelligible and profound; indeed, what he does is to tease and irritate your musical feeling without wishing to satisfy its needs because he is ashamed of speaking in a language that actually reaches the heart. When listening to Brahms, you can't help asking yourself: is he really that profound, or is he just putting on a semblance of depth in order to camouflage the extreme poverty of his imagination? And this question is never quite resolved either way.

It is just impossible, when listening to a work by Brahms, to say that it is weak or utterly insignificant music. For his style is always elevated. Unlike all of us other composers who are his contemporaries, he never resorts to outward effect, he does not seek to surprise and astonish one by means of some flashy new orchestral combination. Likewise, you will never find him lapsing into banality or imitation. What he has to offer is all very serious, very noble, and evidently even original—but the point is that it all lacks the most important thing: there is no beauty!...

Such is my attitude towards Brahms's creations, and it is an attitude which, as far as I know, is shared by all Russian musicians and by the whole Russian concert-going public. On one occasion, a few years ago, when I openly told Hans von Bülow my opinion about Brahms, he said the following to me:

"Just wait a bit, the time will come when the depth and beauty of Brahms's music will reveal themselves even to you. For, like you, I failed to understand him for a long time, but little by little I was privileged with a revelation about Brahms's genius, and I am sure that exactly the same will happen to you."

Well, here I am, waiting and waiting—and still this revelation refuses to come. I deeply respect Brahms's artistic personality; I bow before the chaste purity of his musical aspirations; I admire his firmness and proud refusal to make any concessions to triumphant Wagnerism, or even just to Lisztian tendencies—but I do not love his music. The reader will understand no doubt that these circumstances prevented me from seeking to make Brahms's closer acquaintance, in spite of his very appealing personality. I constantly saw him in the company of convinced Brahmsians (amongst them A. D. Brodsky himself, his wife, and his sister-in-law), and it felt somehow awkward and strange to be in their midst whilst not sharing their veneration for their idol. I felt as if I was introducing an unpleasant dissonance into a complete harmony of minds and hearts which were fervently devoted to, and full of faith in, a quasi-religious musical dogma that was utterly alien to me.

On the other hand, Brahms, too, seemed to instinctively feel, or perhaps even knew, that I was not on his side, and he did not for his part take any steps towards making my closer acquaintance either. He was as free and easy and affectionate with me as he was with everyone else—but no more than that. And yet everything that I have heard about Brahms as a human being intensifies my profound regret that the "revelation" foretold by Bülow has not yet fallen to my share. For his is an exceptionally noble and lofty character, and all those who have had the opportunity to come into closer contact with him are instilled with the most fervent affection and devotion towards him. The famous Czech composer Dvořák recalls, with tears in his eyes, how much ardent sympathy he received from Brahms when the latter became acquainted with his works, which no one wanted to publish or perform, and how the elder composer had subsequently done everything in his power to support the talent of his Slavonic colleague, which until then had been in danger of sinking into obscurity. A. D. Brodsky also told me many an anecdote which showed the German symphonist's character in a most attractive light, especially regarding his extraordinarily noble modesty.

As is well known, Wagner's attitude towards all those who were labouring in the field of composition at the same time as he, was one of immense hatred. His comments about Brahms's works were always particularly caustic and spiteful. Once, when Brahms was told about a recent malicious sally of Wagner's aimed at him, he exclaimed:

"My God! Wagner is striding along the highway of champions! How could I possibly obstruct or irritate him when I am treading my own humble, obscure little path, and why can't he leave me in peace, since it is certain that I will never cross his way?!"

Chapter VI

It was at this very same dinner in A . D. Brodsky's house that I made another acquaintance which was no less interesting, but turned out in contrast to be more than simply a fleeting encounter, which may perhaps be fated never to repeat itself [34], and actually very soon became a sincere friendship founded on the undeniable spiritual affinity of two musical natures, irrespective of their different nationalities. During the rehearsal of Brahms's new trio—in the course of which I took the liberty of making two or three observations about the tempo which were very amiably taken into consideration by the author and actually put into practice—there walked into the room a very short, middle-aged man, with a most frail complexion, very uneven shoulders, tufts of flaxen hair combed back over his forehead, and a very thin, almost boyish, beard and moustache. The features of this man's face, whose appearance for some reason immediately awoke my sympathy, do not present anything particularly striking, since one could call them neither beautiful nor irregular. But on the other hand he has exceptionally attractive, not too large blue eyes, which have an irresistibly enchanting quality about them and remind one of the glance of an innocent, charming child.

I was overjoyed when it turned out, as we were introduced to one another, that this person, whose appearance had inexplicably elicited my sympathy from the very start, was a musician whose deeply felt melodies had won my heart long ago. This was Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer, who for some fifteen years now had enjoyed, together with Svendsen [35], considerable popularity both in Russia and in the Scandinavian countries, and who was generally very highly esteemed and renowned. I think I am not mistaken if I say that to the same extent as Brahms, perhaps undeservedly and unfairly, is unpopular with Russian musicians and the Russian public, Grieg managed to win the hearts of Russians once and for all. In his music, which is suffused with an enchanting melancholy and reflects the beauty of the Norwegian landscape—sometimes majestically broad and grandiose, sometimes drab, modest, and forlorn, but always indescribably captivating for the soul of a northerner—there is something close and familiar to us, something which immediately finds an ardent and sympathetic echo in our hearts.

It may well be that Grieg does possess far less mastery than Brahms, that the tone of his music is less elevated, his aims and aspirations not so ambitious—and one thing that is certain is that he does not seem to have any pretensions to depth whatsoever—but on the other hand he is closer to us, he is more understandable and congenial, precisely because he is profoundly human. When listening to Grieg, we sense instinctively that this music was written by someone who was driven by an irresistible impulse to pour out in sounds the surge of emotions and moods swelling up in his profoundly poetic nature, which is not in thrall to any theory, principle, or banner that others might nail to their mast as a result of these or those fortuitous circumstances, but which obeys, rather, the vital force of sincere artistic feeling.

As for perfection of form, strictness and faultless logic in the elaboration of his themes (which, by the way, are always fresh, new, and stamped with the characteristic traits of Germano-Scandinavian nationality), let us not insist on looking for these in the famous Norwegian's music. But to make up for that, what charm it has, what spontaneity and richness of musical invention! How much warmth and passion there is in his singable phrases, how much spouting vitality in his harmony, how much originality and enchanting peculiarity in his witty, poignant modulations and in his rhythm, which, like everything else about his music, is always interesting, novel, and distinctive! If in addition to all these rare qualities we also take into account his utter simplicity, which is free from any affectation and pretensions to come across as fantastically profound and new (in contrast to many contemporary composers, including Russian ones, who suffer from an unhealthy striving to open up new paths, even though they do not have the slightest vocation or innate gift for such a task), then it is not surprising why everyone loves Grieg, why he is popular everywhere and his name appears continually on concert programmes not just in Germany and Scandinavia, but also in Paris, London, Moscow, and wherever you care to name. Foreigners who visit Bergen in Norway consider it a pleasant duty to take a look, even if only from afar, at the charming haven surrounded by rocks on the sea-coast where Grieg retires to work and where indeed he spends most of his life [36].

I hope it will not seem like self-praise that before my dithyramb to Grieg's talent I asserted that there is a close spiritual affinity between his nature and mine. When I went on to speak about Grieg's marvellous qualities, I was not in any way seeking to suggest to the reader that I, too, am fully endowed with all these qualities. I leave it to others to decide to what extent I am lacking in all that which Grieg has in such abundance, but I cannot fail to record the fact that Grieg, too, felt then and continues to feel towards me something of that attractive power which has always drawn me towards the highly talented Norwegian. Further down I shall give some evidence for this, but for the time being I just want to say that I set great store by Grieg's sympathy and that I am ardently grateful to my destiny for this meeting and my personal acquaintance with him [37].

At the same time as Grieg, there came into the room where we had gathered a lady who had turned slightly grey, and who resembled him closely in appearance: she was just as small, frail, and likeable. She was his wife, and also his cousin, which explains the likeness. Subsequently I would have the opportunity to get to appreciate the many-sided valuable qualities of Madame Grieg. For a start, she turned out to be a splendid singer, even though she had never received any formal training. Secondly, I have rarely met a more knowledgeable and educated woman, who, by the way, has an excellent knowledge of Russian literature (in which Grieg also takes a great interest). Thirdly, I very soon saw for myself that Madame Grieg is as amiable, meek, good-natured and childlike in her purity as her famous husband.

There was one other person in the circle of A. D. Brodsky's regular guests about whom I should like to say a few words. The day before, on the first morning of the New Year, when we were sitting around the tea-table, there suddenly burst into the room a beautiful thoroughbred dog, a setter, which immediately set about greeting our host, his two ladies, and his little nephew. "That means Miss Smyth [38] will be here any moment now!" they all cried out at once, and, indeed, a few minutes later a tall, still young Englishwoman came into the room. She was not beautiful, but had what one usually refers to as an "expressive" or "intelligent" face. I was introduced to her straight away as a professional colleague.

Miss Smyth is one of the few women composers whom one can seriously consider to be achieving something valuable in the field of musical creation. She had been living in Leipzig for a number of years already, had thoroughly studied composition theory and written several interesting works, of which the best one is a Violin Sonata [39] that I later heard her play together with Mr Brodsky in a very fine performance. It is a work of great promise, which shows that she has the potential to become a very serious and gifted composer. Since of course no Englishwoman can be without her peculiarities and eccentricities [40], it is no wonder that Miss Smyth displays some, too—first among these is her beautiful dog, which is inseparable with this young spinster and always dashes ahead to announce her appearance, as was the case on this occasion and on all others which I witnessed. Secondly, there is her passion for hunting, to satisfy which Miss Smyth sometimes goes off to England for a while. And, thirdly, her incredible, incomprehensible veneration, nay, passion for the enigmatic musical genius of Brahms. In her view, Brahms is the culmination of all music, and everything that came before him served merely as necessary groundwork so that, finally, absolute musical beauty could be embodied in the person of the Viennese master.

In this case, too, as always whenever I came across inveterate Brahmsians, I asked myself sadly and nervously whether these people were perhaps mistaken and imagining something that didn't actually exist, or whether I had been so neglected by God and Nature that the "revelation" prophesied by Hans von Bülow refused to visit me.

On the evening of this very same New Year's Day of 1888—a day that was so abundant in impressions of all sorts—I attended a special concert in the Gewandhaus at which a new work by Brahms was to have its première: his Double Concerto for violin and cello. The violin part was played by Joachim, the cello part by the famous Berlin virtuoso Hausmann [41], and Brahms himself conducted the orchestra. This concerto, in spite of the splendid manner in which it was performed, did not produce the slightest impression on me. On the other hand, I was literally overwhelmed by the absolute perfection with which a number of choral pieces (a cappella), including a motet by J. S. Bach, were sung by the famous choir of the Saint Thomas Church in Leipzig (the Thomanerchor), which includes men's and boys' voices, like our church choirs. I have never heard anything like it here in Russia, and I must confess that I was even unpleasantly surprised and mortified by this fact, since until then I had always thought that some of our leading choirs were the best in the world.

The performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony by the magnificent Gewandhaus Orchestra would have elicited my wholehearted enthusiasm had it not been for the fact that the tempi chosen by the orchestra's venerable conductor, Herr Reinecke [42], seemed far too slow to me. It is possible that faithfully observed traditions justify his choice, but even if that were so, it would be better not to adhere to them unconditionally, since I am positively certain that the way in which this symphony of genius is performed in our country is far more lively, exciting, and better [43].

The concert hall at the Neues Gewandhaus [44] is marvellous: it can accommodate a very large audience, it has electric lighting, it is furnished comfortably and elegantly, and, most importantly, it has exemplary acoustics. In the huge director's box where I was seated there were very many prominent figures from the music world of Leipzig, and I got to know them all, including Herr Reinecke, who treated me very courteously. The director of the Gewandhaus concert society, Herr Limburger [45], informed me that my first rehearsal was scheduled for the following morning, at 10 o'clock.

Chapter VII

The famous Gewandhaus concerts, which turn the comparatively small city of Leipzig into one of the leading music centres of Germany, are renowned for their first-rate symphony orchestra, as well as for very conservative and classically oriented programming, which, apart from the three great classics Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries, only gives Mendelssohn and Schumann a look-in. Works by Wagner, Berlioz, and Liszt are almost never played there. It is only in very recent years that those who are in charge of this musical institution have started making some tentative concessions to the spirit of the age, and it is precisely to these concessions that the invitation I quite unexpectedly received to come to Leipzig in order to conduct one of my works belongs.

In Germany and here in Russia this invitation came as quite a surprise, especially in Germany, where very many people regard me as a representative of the ultra-revolutionary musical party just as unfoundedly as here I am often bracketed with the musical reactionaries. It is very probable that my friend A. D. Brodsky had a hand in this, especially since he commands great influence in Leipzig, but still the initiative in this case definitely belonged to Mr N., the agent whom I spoke about earlier. Be that as it may, I sincerely confess that the fact that my music had been allowed onto the programme of a Gewandhaus concert was very flattering for my self-esteem as an author, and that I was extremely glad to begin my artistic itinerary precisely in Leipzig, as this was likely to bolster considerably my reputation in Germany.

However, the more I was able to take pride in the attention bestowed upon me by the Gewandhaus directors, the stronger was my desire to prove a worthy ambassador for Russian music abroad, and of course the more painfully I was tormented by that fear which is characteristic of shy people—namely, the fear of "making a fool of oneself". After a sleepless night in which I had been beset by all kinds of misgivings—in particular, that my shyness would prevent me from rising to the occasion and acquitting myself as a decent conductor—I headed for the rehearsal, together with A. I. Ziloti. As we were walking through the entrance of the Gewandhaus, we ran into the venerable music director Herr Reinecke, who was also rushing to the rehearsal, in order to present me to the orchestra.

C. Reinecke enjoys in Germany and indeed in all Europe the reputation of being an outstanding musician, a talented composer of the Mendelssohnian school, and an experienced conductor of the renowned Leipzig concerts, who has succeeded with great dignity, albeit without any particular brilliance, in sustaining the world-fame of the latter. I say "without any particular brilliance" because many people in Germany deny that Herr Reinecke has any gifts as a conductor, and would like to see him replaced by a more passionate musician, with a more resolute and stronger character. However that may be, there is no doubt that Herr Reinecke is one of the most influential and prominent figures in the German music world, and that, even if there are quite a few Wagnerians, Lisztians, Brahmsians, and other progressives of all shades who are not overly fond of Herr Reinecke, nobody can begrudge this gifted and conscientious musician the respect which he deserves. I, too, had long since felt such respect towards Herr Reinecke, and for that reason I greatly valued the extraordinary consideration and kindness which he showed me from the very start, during that special concert the day before, and which he would continue to bestow on me during my whole stay in Leipzig.

After the usher had come and told us that all the musicians were assembled, we left the dressing-room and made our way to the podium. Herr Reinecke led me up to the conductor's rostrum, tapped his baton, and said some words of welcome, to which the musicians replied by clapping their hands and tapping their bows on the music stands. Then he handed me the stick and withdrew to a chair in the auditorium; I took my place on the rostrum, said a few, probably very mangled, words of thanks in German, and the rehearsal began.

We were playing my First Suite, which is made up of five movements [46], the first of these (Introduzione e Fuga) being generally considered to be one of my most successful compositions. The first quarter of an hour at one's first rehearsal, when one hasn't yet had time to get used to the unfamiliar faces of the musicians, is terribly agonizing—at least for such a shy and inexperienced conductor as I am. It is only after the first interruption, after the first comments you have to make in order to clear up some misunderstanding—in short, once you have come into closer contact with the members of the orchestra, that all this anxiety goes away, and all that remains is your concern to ensure that the task in hand is carried out as well as possible.

After the first movement of the suite I could see from the eyes and smiles on the faces in front of me that many of the musicians had already become my friends. After that all traces of my shyness vanished altogether, and the whole rehearsal went extremely well. By the end I was completely convinced that I was dealing with an orchestra of an exceptionally high calibre. Messrs C. Reinecke and Brahms were present at the rehearsal. When we greeted one another afterwards, Brahms did not say a single encouraging remark, but, as I was told later, he had been very pleased with the first movement. The others, however, had not been to his liking, especially the fourth movement (Marche miniature).

The next rehearsal was already thefull rehearsal. In Leipzig it is the custom to allow the public to attend these full rehearsals. Those who come to the latter are drawn mainly from the student population, who are as fiery, ardent, and generous in their manifestations of approval as the audience at the actual concerts is frosty, austere, and chary of applause. The suite and its author were rewarded by those attending the rehearsal with stormy applause and repeated calls for the latter, and it is quite possible that for this I am principally obliged to the presence of many Russian philology students in the hall who certainly did not stint their expressions of sympathy for a composer from their home country. Be that as may be, I was very satisfied with this success, and when I got back home my delight was intensified further still on finding a card from Grieg. It turned out that straight after the rehearsal he had rushed to my hotel and left a few lines for me in which he conveyed the impression my suite had made on him in such fervently enthusiastic terms that I hesitate to repeat them here for my readers. Sincere recognition from such a colleague of genius as Grieg is the most precious joy that can fall to the lot of an artist [47].

The actual concert took place the following day [48]. A. D. Brodsky had warned me to expect a frosty reception from the part of the audience, and so I was not surprised or hurt when not a single hand was clapped as I walked out onto the podium and my bow was met with deathly silence. However, after the first movement of the suite there was a burst of lively applause, which was repeated at more or less the same intensity after each other movement, and at the end I was called for twice, which in the Gewandhaus is considered to be a sign of great success.

After the concert I was invited to Herr Reinecke's house to have dinner. His family and he himself treated me kindly and affectionately in all kinds of ways. Herr C. Reinecke, who, by the way, has a splendid command of French, proved to be an extremely nice and agreeable person to talk to. In his youth he had been close to Schumann, and he told me about many episodes from the life of the great German master. Schumann's was a truly melancholic nature, and it was clear from the start that his innate melancholy would develop into hypochondria and madness, which is of course what actually happened in the end. His taciturnity was astonishing—one had the impression that every word cost him an extraordinary effort. Another striking feature in Schumann's musical constitution was that he was quite incapable of conducting. Indeed, Herr Reinecke told me some anecdotes which clearly show that Schumann even had trouble distinguishing properly the timbres of the various instruments that make up an orchestra, and that the feeling for rhythm which is so essential for a conductor was quite under-developed in him. How difficult it is to make sense of this anomaly in a musician who, judging by his compositions, was so inventive precisely with regard to rhythm...!

At Herr Reinecke's house I also made the acquaintance of the French composer Gouvy [49], who always spent the winter months in Leipzig. M. Gouvy has become completely Germanized: he speaks German perfectly, has a somewhat hostile attitude to his own fatherland (insofar as music is concerned, of course), and on the whole he makes quite a lamentable impression as someone who considers himself disappointed, injured, offended, and unrecognized by his fellow-countrymen, and who is therefore inclined to exaggerate the merits of other nations. It is quite possible that M. Gouvy does indeed have sufficient grounds to complain about music in France, but it did feel rather awkward to listen to his eulogies of everything German at the expense of France. I had never come across such a Frenchman before...

Chapter VIII

The following day (on Christmas Day in fact according to the Russian calendar), I attended a concert given by the " Liszt Musical Society" (Liszt-Verein) in the concert hall of the Altes Gewandhaus [50]. Just as the new Gewandhaus is beautiful, majestic, spacious, and elegant, so the old one is small, uncomfortable, and even seems to be a bit dirty. But on the other hand this concert hall and especially the small dressing-room, which is adjacent to it, do have the status of being a kind of shrine of German art, and I was overcome by a pious tremor when, sitting in this dressing-room, I recalled that these walls had so often looked down on Mendelssohn, Schumann, and so many other great artists who in the course of decades past had appeared on the podium of the Gewandhaus.

The concert took place in the morning and its programme consisted solely of my own compositions [51]. In contrast to the Gewandhaus, the Liszt Society concentrates its activities exclusively on contemporary music. It has only been around for two years, yet it already has its own quite numerous regular public, which on this occasion packed the hall, not leaving a single free chair. In the ranks of the Society's full members we find numerous admirers of Liszt, for the greater part young, energetic people with much talent, and one has the impression that in the course of time, provided that it continues to be run sensibly, this Society is destined to become a serious rival for the Gewandhaus. Amongst those figures who are most directly involved in ensuring that the " Liszt Society" continues to prosper, I should like to single out the talented music critic Martin Krause, the music publisher Fritsch [52], the Hungarian music director of the Leipzig Opera Nikisch [53], who is a genius, and our own A. I. Ziloti [...] [54]

The concert-master of the Grand Duke of Weimar's orchestra, the young violinist Mr Haliř came specially over from there to attend this concert. I had heard a lot about him from his fervent admirer A. I. Ziloti, and it was all the more gratifying for me to get to know him, given that over the last few years Mr Haliř had been championing my Violin Concerto—that very same work which I referred to earlier when talking about A. D. Brodsky. He plays this concerto everywhere, putting up with reproaches and mockery from the most authoritative music critics who taunt him for having made such a strange choice of work to specialize in. Undaunted, this brave artist tirelessly seeks to make my child of sorrow into a virtuoso repertoire piece at symphony concerts all over Germany. At this concert in the old Gewandhaus, Mr Haliř played, together with A. I. Ziloti and the splendid cellist Schröder [55] (who since then has also visited Moscow and achieved huge success there), my Piano Trio, which is dedicated to the memory of N. G. Rubinstein. Their performance was exemplary.

The quartet led by Herr Petri [56] (the concert-master of the Gewandhaus) gave a very fine account of my First String Quartet, and, apart from these two works, the programme also included several shorter pieces of mine. The Liszt Society's public is enthusiastic, fiery, and very generous in its applause, so that I certainly had no reason to complain about lack of the latter. The directors of the Society presented me with a garland. During the whole concert I was sitting on the podium, in full view of the audience, with Grieg and his wife seated next to me. A very nice music critic called Fritsche told me later how a lady, pointing to the Griegs and me, had told her daughter: "Look, darling, that's Tchaikovsky, and next to him are his children!" She had said this quite seriously, and I am not at all surprised, since I am quite grey and old-looking, whereas Grieg, who is 45, and his wife from a distance really do look very youthful and small.

After the concert I spent a few very agreeable hours at A. I. Ziloti's house, together with his friends from the board of directors of the Liszt Society. We talked mainly about Russian music, and it was very gratifying for me to discover that all these gifted young people are very familiar with our music, and that they have the greatest affection for the names of Glinka, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Glazunov. They all especially love Balakirev's Islamey [57] and consider it to be a work of genius, which by virtue of its originality is in a league of its own. It was also on this memorable day that I first heard Mr Haliř play my Violin Concerto. I think that this artist, who possesses an astonishing beauty of tone, a tremendous technique, passion, brilliance, and strength, will very soon come to occupy first place amongst the violinists of our age.

Chapter IX

After these two so memorable days I stayed in Leipzig for a whole week, and subsequently I would return there twice, staying for a few days in each case. In order to conclude my reminiscences of Leipzig, I shall recount a few more interesting acquaintances I made, as well as some other noteworthy facts.

The Leipzig Opera is proud of its young music-director Herr Nikisch, a conductor of genius and a specialist in Wagner's late music dramas. I heard there Das Rheingold(the first part of the famous tetralogy) andDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg [58]. The orchestra playing in the theatre is the same as in the Gewandhaus, that is absolutely first-rate, but no matter how faultless its performance is in the concerts conducted by C. Reinecke, in order to get a real idea of the level of perfection which this orchestra can attain under the baton of a conductor of genius, it is necessary to have heard such an astonishing master in his profession as Herr Nikisch guide it through the difficult and intricate scores of Wagner operas.

His conducting has nothing in common with the striking and in its own way unique manner of Hans von Bülow. Just as the latter is lively, restless, and effective in his gestures, which often do rather catch the eye, so Herr Nikisch is gracefully calm, wary of any superfluous movements, but at the same time remarkably commanding, strong, and full of self-control. He does not so much conduct as entrust himself to some mysterious wizardry: you hardly notice him, he does not at all seek to draw people's attention, and yet you feel that the whole orchestra is, like an instrument in the hands of a great virtuoso, at the complete disposal of its leader and without a will of its own. This master is a small, very pale young man of about thirty, with wonderful radiant eyes, and he really must have some magic power in the way he is able to force the orchestra now to thunder like the thousand trumpets of Jericho, now to coo like a pigeon, now to die away with a truly gripping mysteriousness. And all this is achieved in such a way that the listeners do not even notice the small conductor who is serenely holding sway over his slavishly obedient orchestra.

Herr Nikisch is a Germanized Hungarian—I suppose he is by no means unique in this respect. However, I am sure that one could scarcely find, at least amongst musicians, a real Italian, born in Florence and having spent all his childhood there, who has lost to such an extent (just in the musical sense of course) the traits that are characteristic of a child of the sunny south and assimilated the language, mannerisms, and, most importantly, the musical style of the Germans so perfectly as the talented Ferruccio Busoni [59], whom I had the opportunity to get to know quite well.

Since his adolescent years Signor Busoni has been living in Germany, where he has had a very good musical schooling and has worked hard to become a technically highly accomplished pianist and composer. I heard a splendid performance by Herr Petri and his three colleagues (including Herr Schröder [60], who is now well-known to audiences in Moscow) of a string quartet by Signor Busoni which he had recently completed [61]. This quartet testifies to Signor Busoni's very impressive talent as a composer, as well as to an unusually earnest approach. Since, thanks to my personal acquaintance with him, I have reason to suppose that this young composer possesses a strong character, a brilliant mind, and noble ambition, I have no doubt that very soon he will be much talked of.

However, while listening to his quartet and admiring his highly original rhythmic and harmonic combinations, I for my part couldn't help lamenting that Signor Busoni so constrains his own nature and seeks to come across as a German at all costs. One can observe something similar in another Italian of the younger generation: Sgambati [62]. They are both ashamed to be Italians, they are afraid of letting even just a particle of melody show up in their compositions, and they want to be "profound" in the German manner. A very lamentable phenomenon!

Old Verdi, that genius, has, in Aida and Otello, opened up new paths for Italian composers [63], without going at all astray in the direction of Germanism (because, contrary to what many people think, Verdi is by no means following in the footsteps of Wagner) [64], whereas his young compatriots are all heading for Germany and trying to win laurels in the fatherland of Beethoven and Schumann at the price of doing violence to their own nature and seeking, like Brahms, to be profound, unintelligible, even boring, so that nobody will dare to lump them together with the legions of Italian composers who to this day are still drawing on and diluting in all kinds of ways the operatic commonplaces of Bellini and Donizetti [65].

What they forget is that a sheep, even if it dresses itself up in a lion's skin, will always remain a sheep, and that, although Nature has allotted strength and beauty to the lion, a sheep is nevertheless endowed with gentleness, a wonderful fleece, and all kinds of other merits, which, if they are properly cultivated, can achieve great perfection and are appreciated by no means less than the opposite leonine virtues and qualities [66]. I am firmly convinced that Italian music will only then experience a new period of prosperity when the Italians, instead of denying their natural inclination and enlisting in the ranks of the Wagnerians or the Lisztians or the Brahmsians, once again start to draw new musical elements from the springs of their national creativity and, renouncing the outdated banalities of the 1830s, come to invent new musical forms in the spirit of their people, as well as in full accordance with the luxurious southern Nature that surrounds them—musical forms that shine with the rich melodies which come so easily to Italians, and also with that easily grasped external prettiness which is the characteristic feature of the Italian musical genius, and which is perhaps compatible with depth, too, though in a different way than German depth [67]. Signor Busoni is a splendid pianist, and one can only hope that he will soon come to Russia and give a concert here [68]. At any rate he is a very striking and interesting personality.

By way of concluding my report on my Leipzig impressions, I shall recount a curious episode which testifies that politics has no influence whatsoever on music [69], and that the gods Mars and Apollo are by no means dependent on one another. At the very height of the Russophobia which had seized the whole of Germany by then, though still before Bismarck's famous February speech [70], I was woken up very early one morning by some loud noise and shuffling in the hotel corridor, which was soon followed by a knock on my door. Somewhat alarmed, I jumped out of bed, opened the door, and found out from the waiter who had knocked that a serenade would soon be performed below my window, and that it was expected of me that I should show myself at the window, in spite of the rather cold weather. The waiter also gave me a beautifully hand-written programme, which listed eight musical numbers of a most varied kind. At that very moment the strains of our national anthem resounded from below.

After hastily putting on my clothes, I opened the window and saw a huge military orchestra assembled in the narrow yard of the hotel immediately below me, and in the centre of this formation was their bandmaster, dressed in a resplendent uniform almost like that of a general. Everybody fixed their eyes upon me; I bowed, and for the whole duration of this unexpected concert on this frosty February morning I stood there bare-headed by the open window. It was the orchestra of one of the regiments quartered in Leipzig, and I must say that it was magnificent, and that the mastery with which it performed its programme was all the more amazing given that the cold, one would imagine, surely ought to have paralyzed the hands of the poor musicians who stoically endured the hard winter frost for a good hour or so. The venerable bandmaster, Herr Saro [71], whose particular sympathy for my music was responsible for the fact that several dozens of Germans in military uniform had been ordered to march out that morning and offer me this musical treat, went up to my room at the end of the serenade and gave me a hearty greeting, though he immediately had to rush off to headquarters again. It goes without saying that I was deeply moved by this so flattering manifestation of sympathy. I'm not so sure whether the other hotel guests were as pleased about being startled from bed so early in the morning by the thundering of trumpets and trombones, but at any rate their curiosity was certainly stirred up. There were people leaning out of every window, in various gradations of undress, trying to find out what was going on [72].

Chapter X

In Hamburg [73] there are two institutions which organize symphonic concerts. One of them, the Philharmonic Society, has been around for a very long time and has considerable financial resources and an outstanding orchestra at its disposal. The other was founded only very recently by Pollini, the well-known impresario of the Hamburg Opera, and does not have its own orchestra: it has to engage the services of the opera-house's orchestra, which is made up of second-rate musicians, who are, moreover, terribly exhausted by their daily obligations at the theatre. Both societies give an annual series of symphony concerts. The Philharmonic Orchestra has for many years now been conducted by Dr Bernuth, an experienced and accomplished music director, who is universally revered in Hamburg both as a musician and as a very kind and agreeable person. The other society's orchestra is conducted by Hans von Bülow.

As it always happens in such cases, there is a secret resentment between these two musical institutions—a mutual hostility and a striving to outdo one another in terms of ticket sales, success, and fame. I had been invited to conduct three works of mine at one of the Philharmonic Society's subscription concerts, and in this way I ended up on the side which is somewhat hostile towards Hans von Bülow, who in his turn, so it seemed to me, isn't overly fond of the Philharmonic Orchestra. I confess that this was a rather distressing situation for me to be in, because Hans von Bülow had in the past rendered me invaluable services [74], and, knowing the state of affairs regarding musical life in Hamburg, it grieved me to think that he might now, so to speak, look askance at me. However, my fears proved to be quite unfounded.

Hans von Bülow, being a born gentleman, took my participation in a concert of the music society that was hostile to him in a most gentlemanly spirit and treated me accordingly. Despite being unwell and also feeling extremely exhausted by his constant travels from Hamburg to Bremen, from Bremen to Berlin, and from Berlin back to Hamburg (he conducts subscription concerts in all three cities), Hans von Bülow gave me a very cordial welcome, called on me at my hotel, and, to the great amazement of the good citizens of Hamburg, he attended, from start to finish, the concert in which I was taking part.

As had been the case in the Leipzig Gewandhaus, I was terribly nervous when on the morning of the 17th (5th) of January I made my way to the first rehearsal at the Conventgarten: the venue for the Philharmonic Society's symphony concerts. The procedure whereby I was introduced to the orchestra was exactly the same as in Leipzig. I started the rehearsal with the Finale of my Third Suite (Tema con variazioni). The faces of the musicians had not expressed anything other than a certain cold curiosity when I first raised my baton, but after a few bars a few of them started smiling and nodding approvingly to one another, as if they wanted to say: "That Russian bear isn't too bad after all!". A thread of sympathy soon connected me with the orchestra, and all my anxiety and lack of self-confidence disappeared just as if someone had waved a magic wand at me. The subsequent rehearsals and the concert itself gave me nothing but joy. For the agitation experienced by an artist is only agonizing and unbearable in the early stages, when he has not yet sufficiently familiarized himself with the environment in which he is due to act and therefore feels lonely and isolated in this wholly new sphere. As for those fears and anxieties which every shy person suffers from when having to appear in public, they are by no means an insurmountable hurdle if he is certain of the sympathy of his colleagues around him.

At the second rehearsal I was overjoyed at the sight of the triumph which fell to the lot of our young fellow-countryman V. L. Sapelnikov [75]. This young pianist had been invited—on the recommendation of Madame S. Menter, in whose class he had completed his course at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory—by the Hamburg Philharmonic Society to play my fiendishly difficult Piano Concerto No. 1 at the concert which I was to conduct there. Shortly before my departure from Saint Petersburg I had already had the opportunity to get to know Mr Sapelnikov's piano playing, but, although I had to a certain extent been able to appreciate his wonderful qualities, all the distracting bustle which usually precedes a long trip abroad had prevented me at the time from realising just how extraordinary the merits of this appealing young artist actually are.

Now, at the rehearsal, my delight kept growing in proportion as V. L. Sapelnikov surmounted one after the other all the incredible difficulties of my concerto and gradually revealed all the power and all the qualities of his tremendous talent. And even more gratifying still was the way in which my delight was shared by all the members of the orchestra, who congratulated him enthusiastically at each break during the rehearsal and especially at the end. An extraordinary strength, beauty, and lustre of tone, an astonishing technique, an interpretation suffused by passion but at the same time a staggering degree of self-control preventing him from being carried away beyond the bounds prescribed by art, musicality, accomplished perfection, absolute confidence in himself—these are the distinguishing features of Mr Sapelnikov's playing. "Famos! unglaublich! kolossal!" ["Splendid! Incredible! Colossal!"]—these exclamations were on the lips of all the musicians after the ovation which they gave him. I am sure my readers can imagine how overjoyed I was by the sincere and genuine enthusiasm awakened in these German artists by the playing of our soon-to-be famous young pianist! After all, there are plenty of good pianists around, and it is so difficult to make your mark in this field! But here, all of a sudden, a multitude of foreign musicians is enchanted, amazed, awe-struck by a Russian virtuoso! What a triumph!

The following rehearsal (in the morning) was public, as in the Gewandhaus, and the concert itself took place that very evening [76]. Of the three works of mine on the programme, the Hamburg public especially liked the Serenade for String Orchestra, which was received with stormy applause. The Piano Concerto as such didn't go down so well, although the audience certainly was able to appreciate fully V. L. Sapelnikov's talent as a performer. Indeed, this highly gifted pianist was received enthusiastically. The Finale from my Third Suite, however, was evidently not to the public's liking. The far too loud and rather flashy instrumentation of this piece embarrassed the Philharmonic Society's season-ticket-holders, who are not used to the modern symphonic style. Someone later explained to me that the concert-going public in Hamburg is extremely conservative and, of the living composers, it is keen on hearing only Brahms.

After the concert there was a big reception and dinner at Dr Bernuth's house. Many things were said that were very flattering to Russian music in general, and to the present writer in particular. I replied with a speech in German, whose stylistic inaccuracies were not only received indulgently, but even awoke great sympathy. After the reception some of my new friends dragged me and V. L. Sapelnikov to a Bier-Kneipe (a pub), where we drank beer and chatted until about two o'clock in the morning.

But that wasn't the end of the spree. After that we were persuaded to go along to one of the Wiener-Cafés which are open all night long in Hamburg, and there we sat for quite a while again, offering plenty of libations to Bacchus. I gained the impression that in Hamburg the way of life is by no means so modest, well-ordered, and measured as in other German cities. All my Hamburg friends, even those who are most serious by nature and who occupy the most respectable positions in society, like to "go on a binge", and I think I myself have never been on such a long and intensive "binge" as in this sprightly, beautiful, and nice city.

The following day, the Tonkünstlerverein (Society of Musicians) organized a soirée in my honour. The programme consisted exclusively of my own compositions. A certain Mlle Nathan performed a few of my songs and V. L. Sapelnikov admirably played three piano pieces of mine [77].

Just as in Leipzig I had greatly enjoyed sharing in the family atmosphere at the homes of A. D. Brodsky and A. I. Ziloti, so in Hamburg I was given an equally heartfelt welcome by the kind Herr D. Rahter [78], a representative of the Büttner publishing firm, who is very well-known in our country's music world. His family has been living in Hamburg for a long time, ever since the death of his beloved son in Saint Petersburg and his fears for the health of his other children induced Herr D. Rahter to send them back to Germany with his wife. From time to time, however, he is able to visit his sorely missed family, and every summer he actually spends three months with them. For me, the many hours I spent in the company of Herr D. Rahter, his much-esteemed wife, and his delightful children (of which unfortunately only the eldest knows a few words of Russian, even though he was born in Russia) were very pleasant indeed. It is all the more gratifying for me to express here my warm gratitude to Herr Rahter for his countless efforts on my behalf and friendly interest, given that it was in fact thanks to his initiative that I was invited to Hamburg, and it was this initial proposal which triggered all the other flattering invitations that reached me from one German city after the other.

Chapter XI

Again as in Leipzig, I also made some equally interesting and agreeable new acquaintances in Hamburg. First of all I should mention the chief director of the Philharmonic Society, the aged Herr Avé-Lallemant. This most venerable old man of over eighty paid me great attention and treated me with paternal affection. In spite of his age and frailness, as well as the long distance from his house, he attended my two rehearsals, the concert, and even Dr Bernuth's reception. In his extraordinary kindness he went so far as to request some photographs of me, which were to be taken by the best photographer in Hamburg. He even called on me to ask about this and arranged an appointment when I could pose for the photographer, as well as deciding on my behalf what size and format the photographs should be produced in. When I then visited this kindly old gentleman, who passionately loves music and who, as should be obvious to the reader, is quite free from that aversion which many old people have against everything that has been written in recent times, I had a very lengthy and interesting conversation with him.

Herr Avé-Lallemant openly confessed that there was a lot in those works of mine which had been performed in Hamburg that wasn't to his liking; that he could not stand my noisy instrumentation; that he hated some of the orchestral effects which I resorted to (especially with regard to the percussion), but that all the same he saw in me the makings of a good, truly German composer. Almost with tears in his eyes he exhorted me to leave Russia and to settle permanently in Germany, where the classical traditions and the general atmosphere of a higher culture would not fail to correct me and rid me of those deficiencies which he felt were easily accountable by the fact that I was born and grew up in a country which was still so unenlightened and backward when compared to Germany as regards progress.

Evidently, Herr Avé-Lallemant harbours a deep prejudice against Russia, and I tried as far as I could to mitigate his hostile feelings towards our country, which, incidentally, this venerable Russophobe did not actually express openly, but merely allowed to shine through in his words. We parted as great friends.

I was treated with exactly the same noble frankness and courtesy by the leading music critic in Hamburg, Herr Sittard [79]. He attended my two rehearsals, thoroughly studied the scores of the works that were being performed, and wrote a long, detailed review in which he sharply censured the direction I was heading in, as well as my symphonic style, which he pronounced to be coarse, far too patchy, wild, and redolent of nihilism [80]. Herr Sittard frankly repeated these very same criticisms to me in person, but at the same time both in his article and in the words he spoke to me there was such genuine sympathy and he showed such friendly interest in my work, that I have preserved a very agreeable recollection of my brief acquaintance with him.

There were also several other music professionals, as well as people who were not specialists as such but were nevertheless very interested in music, who paid me flattering attention, awoke my warm sympathy, and thereby left me with indelible memories. These were: Dr Riemann [81], who occupies himself with exceptionally interesting investigations in various branches of music theory; that witty old man Gurlitt [82], who is not altogether unknown in Russia, as he is the author of very many frequently played fantasias, transcriptions, and arrangements for piano; the talented composer Arnold Krug [83]; the young talented violinist Burmester; the conductor Laube (who has been engaged for concerts at Pavlovsk in the summer of 1888); the violinists Morvege and Behr; the organist Armbrust [84], and many others.

From conversations with all these individuals, I could see that the cult of Brahms is nowhere as widespread and intensive as it is in Hamburg. The agonizing question which for me is bound up with this composer resolved itself to some extent during my stay in this city. It was there that I finally realised how the work of an artist is sometimes valued not as such, not absolutely, but rather according to certain accidental circumstances. As our Russian proverb so splendidly puts it: "When there is no fish the crayfish passes for one" [85]. The point is that Wagner and Wagnerism have by no means captivated the entire German public, as many people imagine.

True, there are a great deal of convinced, energetic, even powerful adepts of the school of Wagner who seek in all kinds of ways to establish him firmly in Germany and to ensure the success of his music. However, the overwhelming majority of the German public is deeply conservative and apt to protest against musical novelties of any sort. Although they have to some extent reconciled themselves with the triumphant onslaught of Wagner in the field of opera, it is a different matter in the concert halls: there they stand firmly by the classical traditions.

Thus, in its striving to conquer the concert podiums, the school of Liszt encounters insurmountable obstacles, and it has hardly achieved any significant successes. A German who is musical and is not infected with Wagnerism, but on the contrary is repelled by its exclusivity, has a certain maidenly bashfulness, a certain chastity of the ear, which compel him to turn away squeamishly from everything that strives for effect, from everything that is striking, sharp, poignant, brilliant, curious—in short, from everything that the new symphonic music in all European countries is seeking to impress with.

The need for a musician, who specially devotes himself to the symphonic manner of the classical composers, for a musician who is sober and unconditionally faithful to the traditions of the great masters, is so urgent and strong, that, in default of a new genius capable of leading the German school of music along the path indicated by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, of a new genius equal to these predecessors, the Germans—or, at any rate, a huge proportion of German music-lovers—have concentrated their hopes and expectations on Brahms, who, even if he cannot be a Beethoven, is at least inspired by the noble ambition to follow in his footsteps.

Chapter XII

The Berlin Philharmonic Society, or, rather, the society of instrumentalists who hire the hall known as the "Philharmonie" [86], invited me to conduct a special concert whose programme was to be drawn up exclusively from my own works [87]. I already mentioned above that the selection of works for the concert entailed some complications, since Herr Schneider, the director (Vorsteher) of the society, and I had different views as to how and with which works I could show myself to best advantage to the Berlin public. I considered and still consider my overture The Year 1812 to be a very mediocre work, having merely a local, patriotic significance, and therefore suitable only for concerts in Russia [88].

Herr Schneider, in contrast, wanted to include precisely this overture in the programme because, as he explained, it had already been successfully performed several times in Berlin. I for my part was counting on the fantasia Francesca da Rimini as the principal work for this concert. Herr Schneider, a very nice and friendly man, seemed to be ready to give in and respect my wishes, but he did so extremely reluctantly. For he thought that it was dangerous to perform, at my first public appearance in Berlin, such a difficult work, which in his view was not likely to go down well with the audience. We eventually decided to seek the advice of Hans von Bülow, who knew very well both my music and the tastes of the Berlin public. To my utmost surprise, he sided unequivocally with Herr Schneider. So I gave in.

The Philharmonic Orchestra in Berlin is not just magnificent—no, it has also a special quality of its own for which I can find no better designation than "elasticity", that is the ability to stretch itself out to the dimensions of a Berliozian or Lisztian orchestra, to render perfectly the fanciful orchestral arabesques of Berlioz and the cannonades of Liszt, but, where necessary, also to shrink and contract to the size of Haydn. In this respect the Berlin orchestra is very much like the orchestras in our two capitals. The reason for this is very likely the fact that both in Berlin and here in Russia the concert programmes stand out for their marked eclecticism.

For unlike Leipzig, where on the one hand the Gewandhaus orchestra almost exclusively plays classical works, and on the other the Liszt Society exclusively new ones, at one and the same concert in Berlin, just as in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, you can get to hear Haydn alongside Glazunov, Beethoven alongside Bizet, Glinka alongside Brahms, and all this is performed with equal love, equal enthusiasm, verve, and ensemble spirit.

The musicians who make up the ranks of the Philharmonic Orchestra are not also employed at the theatres, which means that they are never exhausted from being over-worked, and, furthermore, since theirs is a corporation of members all enjoying equal rights, they play for their own benefit, rather than to feather the nest of an impresario who pays his employees a mere pittance. All these exceptional factors contribute to the orchestra's harmonious, vigorous, and expressive performance style. Just a few bars into my first rehearsal with the orchestra I already felt myself encouraged by the musicians' keen interest, diligence, and goodwill, and everything went very well from the start. The rehearsals were attended by many prominent figures from the music world, who expressed their support for me in all kinds of ways. Among them I must mention Grieg, who had specially come over from Leipzig just to attend my concert; Moritz Moszkowski [89], Professor Ehrlich [90], and Hans von Bülow, who, despite feeling extremely tired, turned up even for the first rehearsal and gave me a lot of encouragement. The concert, in spite of the dismal weather, drew a numerous audience and went very well indeed. A. I. Ziloti gave a splendid account of my Piano Concerto and was brilliantly successful. V. L. Sapelnikov was so good and kind as to accompany the soprano Mlle Friede [91] in a performance of some of my songs. As for the symphonic works, the ones which the audience liked most were the Introduzione e Fuga from the First Suite and the overture The Year 1812. I was received with loud applause, which continued long after I had retired to the dressing-room.

The reader may perhaps have noticed that I am not describing my stay in Berlin so willingly and comprehensively as one might expect, in view of the huge significance which this capital-city has in the Germanic world. There is, however, a very cogent reason for this, as I shall now explain. The point is that it is as difficult and painful for me to be in Berlin as to write about Berlin. Too fresh in my heart are the memories of the irreplaceable loss I suffered with the death of I. I. Kotek, my pupil and subsequently closest friend, who spent the last eight years of his life in Berlin and managed to attain a prominent and brilliant position there. So every day during my stay in the city now I came across people among whom my late friend had lived. Many of them had, like me, been close friends of his. Every minute I would stumble on objects or recall circumstances which vividly brought his image to my mind and reopened wounds that had scarcely healed yet... Time is the only healer of such wounds, but it takes a very, very long time to get over the death of a gifted young man who had been full of energy and promise...

Among those who received me with particular hospitality and warmth in Berlin, I would like to mention the well-known concert agent Wolff [92], the magnificent violinist Emile Sauret [93], the famous Moritz Moszkowski, whose personality I found just as attractive as his music, the most amiable music publisher Hugo Bock, and, finally, Madame Artôt, who is so vividly remembered by all who saw her (especially by audiences in Moscow). This singer of genius has been living in Berlin for some time now, and she is greatly esteemed both by the court and the public in general. Her work as a singing teacher is proving to be highly successful, too. Together with Grieg, I spent an evening at Madame Artôt's house, the recollection of which will never be erased from my memory. Both the personality and the artistry of this singer are as irresistibly enchanting as ever [94].

Chapter XII

The first concert which I conducted in Prague was organized by the "Umelečká beseda" (Society of Artists) in support of the fund for popular concerts. The year before Hans von Bülow had been invited to Prague for this very purpose, and it was thanks to him that this fund could be set up. This year the representative of the "Umelečká beseda", Mr Velebín Urbánek [95], asked me to help this cause, and I accepted his proposal most willingly. In view of the patriotic spirit of this enterprise I also waived any remuneration whatsoever. This gesture touched the organizers of the concert and the whole Czech public, and, of course, a very significant proportion of my overwhelming, far too little deserved success in Prague was precisely due to this so natural renunciation of a fee for the sake of a cause with regard to which any mention of money must surely make anyone blush with shame. Even a mercenary-minded person would have acted exactly like me. However, the good Czechs saw in my understandable willingness to appear before such a highly cultivated concert-going public as that of Prague—even for free—some sort of self-sacrifice on my part, and thanks to this view of the matter I was lavished with ovations such as I have never experienced before.

Besides, there was one other reason why a Russian musician, who is hardly a household name in Prague and by no means popular, was accorded almost a hero's welcome there. And this reason in no way diminishes my sweet feeling of gratitude for the laurels I earned in such abundance in Prague—on the contrary, it serves to intensify the pleasure with which I look back on the unforgettable days which I spent in the golden city of a hundred spires, henceforth a hundred times dearer to my heart. The point is that amongst us "Slavic brothers" there is one tribe which towers over the rest in terms of culture. The people of that tribe do not profess the Orthodox faith, and no drop of precious Russian blood has ever been shed on their behalf [96]. We are following different paths, and it would seem that no other Slavic nation is more alien to us than they are.

And yet, if there are fellow-tribesmen whom we can really call brothers, if there is someone who looks up at Russia with brotherly affection, then that is of course the Czechs! The reception which they accorded to me was a manifestation of their sympathy for Russia as a whole! They saw in me not just a musician, but a Russian musician, and, in honouring me, they honoured my fatherland. Anyway, the reader will soon see this for himself if he reads the detailed account of the days I spent in Prague, which I shall now proceed with in chronological order, in view of the extraordinary interest and significance of everything that happened there. [97]

Chapter XIV

On Sunday, the 30th of January I left Leipzig for Prague, together with A. I. Ziloti, who, along with the Czech violinist Karel Haliř, whom I mentioned above, had been invited to take part in my concert [98] [...] [99]

Documentary Sources

Tchaikovsky's autograph manuscript is preserved in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg.


An abridged version of the account made by the composer's brother Modest was published in February 1894 under the title "From the Diary of P. I. Tchaikovsky" (Из дневника П. И. Чайковского) in the Saint Petersburg journal Russian Herald (Русский вестник), Vol. 230, No. 2, p. 165-203 [100].

This abridged version—now under the title "Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888" (Автобиографическое описание путешествия заграницу в 1888 году) was reprinted in Herman Laroche's edition of Tchaikovsky's music review articles—Музыкальные фельетоны и заметки Петра Ильича Чайковского, 1868-1876 (1898), p. 355-391. It was further abridged in an English translation by Rosa Newmarch as "Diary of my tour in 1888" in Tchaikovsky. His life and works (1900), p. 168-225.

Chapters 13 and 14 of the original text were not included in any of the above publications, but were incorporated into the Soviet edition of Tchaikovsky's literary writings and correspondence, edited by Vasily YakovlevП. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том II (1953), p. 333-364.

A French translation by Dora Sanadzé and Svetlana Hailliot was published as Voyage à l'étranger (1993).

Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'Autobiographical Description of the Trip Abroad in 1888' in ČW.
  2. This account has been translated into English in full before—namely by Rosa Newmarch in her seminal biography: The Life and letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893 (1905). The original 1905 edition of the latter is available online [1], with the text of the "Account of a Tour Abroad" appearing on pp. 167–225. The translation given here is new and has been prepared specially for this website, but in some cases it was helpful to be able to consult Rosa Newmarch's translation to see how difficult Russian constructions might best be rendered into English — translator's note.
  3. Karl Valts (1846–1929) was in charge of stage effects at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow for many years — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  4. Ulrich Havránek (1853–1937), Bohemian-born conductor and choir-master who was based in Russia from 1874. He worked at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre from 1882 — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  5. The musician in question was Nikolay Semyonovich Klenovsky (1853–1915), who had studied in Tchaikovsky's composition class, worked as a conductor at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre from 1883 to 1893. He was also a composer of ballet music and other works — note by Vasily Yakovlev (supplemented by Ernst Kuhn).
  6. Tchaikovsky never felt at ease when conducting. At his public début as a conductor, during a charity concert on 19 February/2 March 1868 at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre, he was so nervous that he completely forgot the score of the works to be played (the Entr'acte and Dances of the Chambermaids from his own opera The Voyevoda) and messed up all the cues. The performance might well have been a disaster had it not been for the fact that the orchestra knew the music well. He had another go at conducting in February 1877, which went somewhat better (a performance of his own Slavonic March), but it was not until 1885, in the course of the events described above, that he decided to attempt professional conducting in earnest. As will become clear further down in the text, Tchaikovsky regarded the première of Cherevichki in January 1887 as his baptism of fire as a conductor. See also Chapter VII in David Brown, Vladimir Gerard (1993), for many interesting eyewitness accounts of Tchaikovsky's experiences as a conductor — translator's note.
  7. Vasily Yakovlev also points out that apart from the two appearances as a conductor in Moscow detailed above (in Note 5), Tchaikovsky had also conducted a performance of his own Overture in F major (first version) on 27 November/9 December 1865, in the hall of the Mikhaylovsky Palace in Saint Petersburgtranslator's note.
  8. It would seem that Tchaikovsky is being a bit ironical in this last sentence. The actual phrase he uses—«для вящего моего благополучия» [for my greater prosperity]—has a quaint participial adjective «вящий», which is etymologically related to «венец» [wreath, crown]. Thus, the phrase might also be translated: "to crown my prosperity". Although it is true that conducting at his own concerts provided Tchaikovsky with a welcome extra source of income (especially when he ceased to receive his allowance from Nadezhda von Meck in 1890), his reasons for taking up conducting were not so much to do with financial gain as with the opportunity (also emphasized in the above text) to introduce audiences to his works (especially in Western Europe, which, despite the endorsement of such figures as Liszt or Hans von Bülow, still knew comparatively little of Russian music). Tchaikovsky would also conduct many pieces by fellow-Russian composers — translator's note.
  9. Glinka's concert in Paris took place in April 1845. The following works of his were performed: the Krakowiak from A Life for the Tsar, Chernomor's March from Ruslan and Lyudmila, and theValse-Fantasie, as well as a few lesser pieces. At this concert Glinka also accompanied a violinist and a singer at the piano — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  10. Tchaikovsky's concert on 5/17 March 1887 included the following works: the Suite No. 2 (first performance in Saint Petersburg), the Dance of the Tumblers and an arioso from the opera The Enchantress (the latter sung by Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova), the Elegia and Valse from the Serenade for String Orchestra, the orchestral fantasia Francesca da Rimini, some piano pieces (played by Dmitry Klimov), the romances I'll Tell You Nothing—No. 2 of the Twelve Romances, Op. 60, Sleepless Nights—No. 6 in the same cycle, and Does the Day Reign?—No. 6 of the Seven Romances, Op. 47, as well as the festival overture The Year 1812note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  11. In the original Russian: «г. Ч[айковский] совсем плох, у него нет ни искры дарования». The critic in question was César Cui, and this comment was part of the very first press review of a work by Tchaikovsky: 'Some soloists and a composer from the Conservatory' (Консерваторские солисты и композитор) in the 24 March 1866 issue of the newspaper Saint Petersburg Register (Санкт-Петербургские ведомости). The review (which Cui had signed *** as always) dealt with the performance of Tchaikovsky's cantata Ode to Joy at a public examination of the first cohort of graduates from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory on 29 December 1865/10 January 1866. Tchaikovsky's concert on 5/17 March 1887 was reviewed by Cui in an article dated 12 March 1887 and signed (***) for the journal Musical Review (Музыкальное обозрение) — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  12. See TH 306 (in particular Note 4) for Tchaikovsky's recollections of Wagner's conducting at the concerts he gave in Saint Petersburg in February–April 1863.
  13. Tchaikovsky first made the acquaintance of Hans von Bülow during the latter's concert tour in Russia in 1874 (in which he had appeared mainly as a pianist—see TH 288). Their next meeting took place in Saint Petersburg in January 1885, during the rehearsals for the première of the Suite No. 3, which was to be conducted by Bülow (who was making his second tour of Russia in the 1884/85 season). Tchaikovsky was overjoyed by the success of his new work at this concert on 12/24 January (at which had Bülow also played and conducted from the piano Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2), as he wrote in letter 2646 of 18/30 January 1885 to Nadezhda von Meck. During his third tour of Russia in the 1885–86 season Bülow also conducted a number of works by Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, and Balakirev, as well as by Tchaikovsky, but it is not clear how many of these concerts the latter was able to attend. Tchaikovsky also had a chance to observe Bülow's conducting at a performance of his Violin Concerto in Hamburg on 10 January 1888 [N.S.] (with Adolph Brodsky as the soloist), as well as during Bülow's rehearsals for concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic in the German capital in January–February 1888. For more details, see: Marek Bobéth, Petr Il'ič Čajkovskij und Hans von Bülow (1998), pp. 355–366 — translator's note.
  14. In 1887, Russia's relations with Germany were already considerably strained (after the humiliating Treaty of Berlin in 1878 and Bismarck's subsequent encouragement of Austrian ambitions in the Balkans), whilst the fledgling French Republic was feeling increasingly provoked by Germany. This paved the way for the (at first glance) so unlikely rapprochement between Imperial Russia and Republican France, which in 1887 manifested itself in a huge French loan to help Russia shore up its military defences against Germany. This loan was enthusiastically supported by the French public. Pro-Russian feeling in France also meant a surge of interest in Russian literature and music throughout the 1880s and 90s — translator's note.
  15. The agent in question was D. A. Friedrich, who was based in Berlinnote by Ernst Kuhn.
  16. Benjamin Bilse (1816–1902), German conductor and orchestra impresario. The Berlin Philharmonic was set up in 1882 by a group of musicians who had broken away from Bilse's orchestra. As Tchaikovsky's brother Modest noted in his biography of the composer, Bilse also conducted the first performance in Berlin of Francesca da Rimini, on 2/14 September 1877. The other piece on the programme was Brahms's Second Symphony, and it seems that most of the critics and the audience did not react favourably towards Tchaikovsky's orchestral fantasia (partly because they sided with Brahms for patriotic reasons). Notable exceptions were Joseph Joachim and Hans von Bülow (who shortly afterwards wrote to Tchaikovsky that he had liked Francesca even more than Romeo and Juliet). In their case, admiration for Brahms clearly did not blind them to the merits of Tchaikovsky's music! Despite the lukewarm reaction of most of the audience at this performance, Bilse continued to include Francesca da Rimini in his concerts in Berlintranslator's note (based on an initial note by Ernst Kuhn, with extra material drawn from Thomas Kohlhase, An Tschaikowsky scheiden sich die Geister. Textzeugnisse der Čajkovskij-Rezeption, 1866-2004 (2006), pp. 63–64.
  17. The famous Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11. Tchaikovsky heard Bilse's arrangement for string orchestra of the Andante cantabile at concerts in Berlin on 2/14 (?) March 1879 and 3/15 March 1884, and was so impressed by the resulting sound effect that he decided to produce his own arrangement in 1888: Andante cantabile (TH 63). Tchaikovsky would frequently select this arrangement for the concerts he was invited to conduct — translator's note (with reference to Thomas Kohlhase, An Tschaikowsky scheiden sich die Geister. Textzeugnisse der Čajkovskij-Rezeption, 1866-2004 (2006), pp. 131–132).
  18. Tchaikovsky left Berlin and arrived in Leipzig on the same day: 19/31 December 1887 — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  19. Arthur Friedheim (Артур Фридгейм) (1859–1932), German pianist and conductor (born to a German family in Saint Petersburg), studied with Anton Rubinstein and Liszt (from 1878 to 1886 he worked as the latter's private secretary). From 1891 he worked mainly in the USA and Canada — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  20. Tchaikovsky's memory was mistaken here—the concerto was actually written in 1878.
  21. An Austrian daily founded in Vienna in 1864.
  22. Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904), influential Viennese music critic and author of the book Vom Musikalisch-Schönen[On the Beautiful in Music] (1854). One of Wagner's fiercest critics (and duly ridiculed as the carping Beckmesser inDie Meistersinger), he was also an early champion of Brahms's music. The review Tchaikovsky is referring to here appeared in the Christmas issue (24 December 1881) of the Neue Freie Presse: the composer would never forget Hanslick's disparaging and arrogant remarks. It is interesting that already in 1876, in his first review of a work by Tchaikovsky (the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet), Hanslick had written sarcastically about the"'young Russian school of music" whose composers had all taken their cue from Liszt, quipped about the way Tchaikovsky was being made out to be "a second Beethoven" by his supporters, and made condescending remarks about the "Russian uncouthness" of the overture in general (e.g. saying that the Allegro giusto theme evocating the feud between Montagues and Capulets made him feel as if he had been thrashed with a knout!) — note by Ernst Kuhn (supplemented by the translator with reference to Thomas Kohlhase, An Tschaikowsky scheiden sich die Geister. Textzeugnisse der Čajkovskij-Rezeption, 1866-2004 (2006), pp. 57–58).
  23. Adolph Brodsky was the soloist at the world première of the Violin Concerto in this symphony concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Society, conducted by Hans Richter (1843–1916), which took place on 4 December 1881 [N.S.]note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  24. Tchaikovsky's quotation is not entirely faithful to the original. Here is the passage in question from Hanslick's 1881 review of the Violin Concerto. After pointing out how in the first movement "crudeness" ['Rohheit'] eventually won the upper hand over musical elegance, how the Adagio, with its "gentle Slavic melancholy" ['weiche slavische Schwermuth'] reconciled one briefly with the work, Hanslick noted that the Finale plunged one into "the brutal, sad merriness of a Russian parish fair": "Wir sehen lauter wüste, gemeine Gesichter, hören rohe Flüche und riechen den Fusel. Friedrich Vischer behauptet einmal bei Besprechung lasciver Schildereien, es gebe Bilder, "die man stinken sieht." Tschaikowskys Violin-Concert bringt uns zum erstenmal auf die schauerliche Idee, ob es nicht auch Musikstücke geben könne, die man stinken hört" ["We see nothing but wild, vulgar faces, hear coarse swearing and can literally smell the cheap liquor. Friedrich Vischer [a famous German literary critic and writer on aesthetics] once observed, referring to lascivious descriptions in literature, that there are images "which one can see stink". Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto suggests the dreadful thought that there might well also be works of music whose stinking one can hear"] Thus, the original is clearly no less disparaging than Tchaikovsky's slightly altered quotation! It is in fact likely that he was citing Hanslick's review from memory, and that his choice of words was influenced by his reading of French naturalist authors—above all Zola, some of whose novels (L'assomoir, Germinal) Tchaikovsky avidly read between 1879 and 1885, but always feeling disgusted in the end by Zola's detailed descriptions of the most unpleasant and lowly 'facts of life'. (cf. his letter 1120 on 24 February/8 March 1879 to his brother Anatoly: "Zola has long since become loathsome to me", or his letter 4450 of 1/13 August 1891 to his nephew Vladimir Davydov in which he brilliantly parodies the style of the French naturalists and even concludes with an expletive about Zola, whom he blames for this new trend) — translator's note (the quotations from Hanslick's review are taken from An Tschaikowsky scheiden sich die Geister. Textzeugnisse der Čajkovskij-Rezeption, 1866-2004 (2006), p. 71).
  25. Karel Haliř (1859–1909), well-known Bohemian violinist and string quartet player — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  26. Anna Brodsky (1853–1929) would later write a fascinating account of her years touring Europe with her husband before they finally settled near Manchester. In these memoirs, published as Recollections of a Russian home. A musician's experiences (1904), she writes in particular of the visits which Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Grieg together with his wife Nina paid to their house in Leipzig. David Brown's anthology of reminiscences on the composer, Vladimir Gerard (1993) includes an excerpt from Anna Brodsky's memoirs in which she describes, in a very lively manner, the unique meeting of the three composers which took place on 1 January 1888 [N.S.]. The full text of her book is also available online [2].
  27. Ziloti's wife, Vera Pavlovna Tetryakova (whom he married in 1887) was a cousin of Tchaikovsky's sister-in-law Praskovya (whom the composer's brother Anatoly had married in 1882).
  28. Brahms's Trio in C minor, Op. 101 (1887) — translator's note.
  29. The noun Tchaikovsky uses here—«германец»—is indeed used (mainly in colloquial or jocular contexts) to refer to a German (like the more familiar «немец»), but more frequently it is used in the sense of "Teuton", i.e. referring to the Germanic peoples generally. However, here it is perhaps advisable not to render it as "Teuton", seeing that Tchaikovsky himself could have used the existing Russian word—«тевтон»—but chose not to. It is interesting that, in contrast to Tchaikovsky, several other contemporary descriptions of Brahms by foreigners do refer to his typically Teutonic appearance, in particular his penetrating, fiery eyes — translator's note.
  30. The symbol "[...]" appears at this point in the text of the "Autobiographical Account" given in Vol. II (1953) of the Soviet edition of Tchaikovsky's complete writings and correspondence, suggesting that text has been excised either by the Soviet editors or by Tchaikovsky's brother Modest, who prepared this diary-article for publication in 1894. No such symbol appears in Ernst Kuhn's German edition (2002).
  31. See Note 9 in TH 300 for further references to Tchaikovsky's attitude towards Brahms's music.
  32. Josef Joachim (1831–1907), famous Austro-Hungarian violinist, conductor, and composer; one of Brahms's closest friends (at least in their early years).
  33. Hans von Bülow, touring Russia again during the 1884–85 season as both pianist and conductor, had tried to win Russian audiences over for Brahms's music, and, in particular, to convert his friend Tchaikovsky (as the latter describes further on in this chapter). Thus, at a concert in Saint Petersburg on 29 December 1884/10 January 1885, Bülow included Brahms's Third Symphony in the programme (which also featured Tchaikovsky's Coronation March); and on 12/24 January 1885 in the same city, at a concert in which he directed the première of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3, Bülow played Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2. Whereas reviews for Tchaikovsky's suite were almost unanimously enthusiastic, the reaction of the audience and critics towards Brahms's concerto was lukewarm, to say the least. César Cui, for example, wrote that he was interested in "the technical aspects of Brahms's works" but that otherwise the German just wrote "kapellmeister music". Tchaikovsky, too, refused to change his attitude. It is also worth noting that his former pupil Sergey Taneyev would often be referred to (disparagingly) as "the Russian Brahms" by Russian critics, who found most of Taneyev's works to be far too elaborate and cold. Taneyev himself, who was not ashamed of swimming against the tide, resented the comparison because he, too, disliked Brahmstranslator's note (with reference to Marek Bobéth, ' Petr Il'ič Čajkovskij und Hans von Bülow' (1998), pp. 363–364).
  34. In fact Tchaikovsky would meet Brahms one more time—just over a year later, in March 1889, in the German composer's home town of Hamburg, where Tchaikovsky conducted the first performance outside of Russia of his recently completed Fifth Symphony. He wrote about this meeting to his brother Modest in letter 3812 from Hamburg dated 28 February/12 March 1889: "I've been here since yesterday. The first rehearsal was today. Brahms stayed here a whole day extra just to hear my symphony, and he was very kind. After the rehearsal we had lunch together and got ourselves pretty drunk. He is very pleasant, and I like his straightforwardness and simplicity" — translator's note.
  35. Johann Svendsen (1840–1911), Norwegian composer and violinist. Tchaikovsky discusses some of his works in two articles written in 1872 (TH 268) and 1874 (TH 295) respectively. Although he makes a few sharp criticisms, Tchaikovsky consistently praises the Scandinavian folkloric element in Svendsen's music. As for Grieg, it is known that some works of his were featured by the Russian Musical Society in its concerts during the 1870s—for example, on 4/16 December 1876, Eduard Nápravník conducted an RMS concert in Saint Petersburg at which Iosif Borovka (b.1853) played Grieg's famous Piano Concerto in A minor (1868). Further investigation is necessary to ascertain whether Tchaikovsky attended this concert, and, if not, to determine when exactly he first became acquainted with the music of his great Norwegian contemporary. No works by Grieg were featured in the concerts Tchaikovsky reviewed for the Russian Register from 1872 to 1875, and it seems that it was only after 1876 that his music began to be performed at public concerts in Russia — translator's note (drawing on information provided by Vasily Yakovlev).
  36. Tchaikovsky is referring to Grieg's country-house Troldhaugen, near Bergen —note by Ernst Kuhn.
  37. Seven letters and cards from the correspondence between Tchaikovsky and Grieg (which seems to have been limited to 1888) have so far emerged, although it is clear that a few more were exchanged between the two composers that year. They have been made available online [3] in facsimile copies and transcriptions by the Bergen Public Library (Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek). They wrote to one another in German, although Tchaikovsky repeatedly laments that he could not express himself properly in German, and that he could therefore not say everything that he wanted to about his admiration for Grieg. These letters certainly corroborate what Tchaikovsky says above about their mutual sympathy. Thus, on 31 March/12 April 1888 Grieg wrote to him from Leipzig: "You cannot imagine what joy my meeting with you has given me. No, not joy, but much more! You have left such a strong impression on me both as an artist and as a human being". And on 14/26 May 1888 he wrote to Tchaikovsky from the island of Funen in Denmark, expressing the hope that they might coincide at a concert in Europe later that year: "We must meet again! Be it in Russia, in Norway, or wherever! Kindred spirits do not grow on trees!" ["Sympatische Geister wachsen nicht auf den Bäumen!"] After their meetings in Leipzig (often at the Brodskys' house) the two composers, however, did not meet again, but they did exchange copies of their works in the course of 1888: Grieg sent his overture In Autumn, Op. 11 (1865) and the first of his two Peer Gynt suites, and Tchaikovsky even dedicated to Grieg the overture-fantasia Hamlet which he wrote that year — translator's note.
  38. Ethel Smyth (1858–1944), English composer and a future leader of the women's suffrage movement. She would later write her own account of this meeting with Tchaikovsky as part of her memoirs: Impressions that remained (1919). It is also included in David Brown, Vladimir Gerard (1993), pp.190–191 — note by Ernst Kuhn (supplemented by the translator).
  39. Tchaikovsky is referring to her Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 7 (1887) — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  40. It is not improbable that Tchaikovsky's view of Englishwomen was influenced by his reading of Charles Dickens's great novel David Copperfield (1849–50). Like many of his generation in Russia, an admirer of Dickens since his youth, Tchaikovsky actually re-read this masterpiece in the original in 1883 as part of the programme that he embarked on in 1880 to teach himself English. Thus, he wrote in letter 2375 to Nikolay Konradi on 22 October/3 November 1883: "Can you imagine, my dear Nikolushka, that in my old age I have seriously started to study the English language and have come so far that I am able to read Copperfield in the original. This gives me immense pleasure". David's aunt in this novel, the formidable Miss Betsey Trotwood, is one of the most memorable eccentric old ladies in English fiction — translator's note.
  41. Robert Hausmann (1832–1902), German cellist, member of Joseph Joachim's string quartet, and teacher at the Academy of Music (Musikhochschule) in Berlinnote by Ernst Kuhn.
  42. Carl Reinecke (1824–1910), German composer, pianist, conductor, and music teacher. From 1860 to 1895 he was music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus and taught piano and composition at the Leipzig Conservatory, his students including Grieg, Svendsen, Christian Sinding, and Felix Weingartner — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  43. In TH 306, Tchaikovsky discusses a performance of the Fifth Symphony in Moscow conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein.
  44. This concert hall (historically the second Gewandhaus building in Leipzig and therefore referred to as "Neues" to distinguish it from the first hall—the "Altes Gewandhaus" (which was not torn down until the 1890s) was inaugurated in 1884 but destroyed by bombing raids during World War II. In 1981, the present Gewandhaus (the third) opened its doors to concert-goers — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  45. Paul Bernhard Limburger (1826–1891), a member of the Gewandhaus Board of Directors.
  46. Although the suite was originally written in five movements, an additional Divertimento) was written at the last minute to stand in for theMarche miniature, which Tchaikovsky considered to be "of doubtul merit"; however, he was presuaded that both pieces should be included in the suite, as the second and fourth movements respectively, Tchaikovsky's recollection that the Marche was indeed performed as the fourth movement could imply that either the folllowing Scherzo or Gavotte were omitted on this occasion, or that his memory was mistaken.
  47. This card sent by Grieg has not been preserved — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  48. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra's twelfth subscription concert took place on 24 December 1887/5 January 1888, with Tchaikovsky himself conducting his Suite No. 1 in the first half of the concert — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  49. Théodore Louis Gouvy (1822–1898), French composer in the tradition of Schumann and Mendelssohn. He lived in Leipzig for many years, and it was mainly in Germany that his works achieved recognition — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  50. See Note 44 above.
  51. This "Tchaikovsky Celebration" (Tschaikowsky-Feier), organized by the Liszt Society in Tchaikovsky's honour, took place on 25 December 1887/6 January 1888. Alongside the Piano Trio and String Quartet No. 1, some piano pieces were also played by Aleksandr Ziloti, including the Barcarolle from The Seasons and a fantasia on themes from the opera Yevgeny Oneginnote by Vasily Yakovlev.
  52. Ernst Wilhelm Fritsch (1840–1902), Leipzig-based publisher, originally a violinist; his firm published many of Richard Wagner's writings and also a music journal — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  53. Arthur Nikisch (1855–1922), Hungarian conductor, one of the most outstanding conductors of his times. Tchaikovsky and Nikisch had a mutual admiration for one another — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  54. Some pages are missing from Tchaikovsky's manuscript at this point (the present text is taken from the version first published in 1894) —note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  55. Alwin Schröder (1855–1928), famous German cello virtuoso; he was born to a distinguished family of musicians in Quedlinburg; later he lived and worked mainly in the United States — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  56. Henri Petri (1856–1914), Dutch violinist, studied with Joseph Joachim; he was based mainly in Germany (Sonderhausen, Hanover, Leipzig, later Dresden) — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  57. See TH 278 for Tchaikovsky's own enthusiastic views on Balakirev's famous "oriental fantasia" for piano.
  58. Arthur Nikisch conducted both these performances: Das Rheingold on 4 January 1888 [N.S.] and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg on 10 February 1888 [N.S.]. The latter performance was given specially at the request of Tchaikovsky, who had never heard this opera before. In letter 3490 to his brother Modest from Prague on 2/14 February 1888, Tchaikovsky just mentions this fact briefly: "In the evening [in Leipzig] I was at the opera: it was a performance of Meistersinger. Very interesting" — note by Vasily Yakovlev (supplemented by the translator).
  59. Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924), famous composer and piano virtuoso (his mother was actually German) — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  60. Shortly afterwards the cellist Alwin Schröder (see Note 55 above) went on a concert tour to Russia. On 30 January/11 February 1888 he was the soloist in a symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow at which he played Saint-Saëns's Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 (1872), as well as some pieces by Handel, Schubert, and David Popper (1843–1913) — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  61. Tchaikovsky heard Busoni's String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 19 (1886) at a chamber music concert given by the "Petri Quartet" in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 16/28 January 1888. Tchaikovsky also recorded this fact in his diary — note by Vasily Yakovlev (supplemented by Ernst Kuhn).
  62. Giovanni Sgambati(1841–1914), Italian pianist and composer — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  63. The text that follows is again based directly on Tchaikovsky's manuscript (see Note 54 above).
  64. It is interesting that in an article of 1872 (TH 266) Tchaikovsky talked about the "Wagnerian influence" in Aida. He had evidently changed his views sixteen years later — translator's note.
  65. See Note 5 in TH 291 for a reference to Tchaikovsky's recently unearthed "Autobiography" (TH 317), written for a German music journal in 1889, in which he emphasizes that he was still a great admirer of Italian bel canto, in particular of Bellini's Norma and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. His frequent critical offhand remarks about these operas must be understood in the context of the situation in Moscow in the 1870s when the repertoire at the Bolshoi Theatre was still largely dominated by Italian opera, and Russian composers hardly got a look-in — translator's note.
  66. Tchaikovsky also merges in a similar way these two well-known fables by Aesop—about the ass in a lion's skin and the wolf in sheep's clothing—in TH 264, where he laments that Glinka "remained but a lion in the sheepskin of dilettantism" — translator's note.
  67. In the Italian Capriccio (1880), based on folk tunes from that country, Tchaikovsky had perhaps indirectly tried to give younger Italian composers an example of which direction they should take — translator's note.
  68. Tchaikovsky's hopes were indeed soon fulfilled. In the 1890–91 season Busoni lived in Russia and worked as professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatory. Shortly before his appointment he was awarded the " Anton Rubinstein Prize" for his Konzertstück for piano and orchestra, Op. 31a (1890). He appeared in two concerts of the Russian Musical Society: in Moscow on 20 October/1 November 1890, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major; and in Saint Petersburg on 3/15 March 1891, playing Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor — note by Ernst Kuhn (with additional information from Vasily Yakovlev).
  69. The phrase "politics has no influence whatsoever on music" was omitted from the republication of this article in the Soviet collected edition of Tchaikovsky's writings—П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том II (1953), edited by Vasily Yakovlev— but restored here by way of P. Tschaikowsky. Musikalische Essays und Erinnerungen (2000), edited by Ernst Kuhn.
  70. On 8 February 1888 [N.S.], Bismarck addressed the German Reichstag, warning about Russia's bellicose intentions and demanding an increase of Germany's armament expenditure — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  71. Johann Heinrich Saro (1827–1891), famous German military bandmaster, who also went on successful foreign tours (France, the United States) with his bands — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  72. This "serenade" in Tchaikovsky's honour took place on 30 January/11 February 1888, and is also recorded in his diary — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  73. Tchaikovsky left Leipzig on 26 December 1887/7 January 1888, travelling first to Berlin, and then to Hamburg and Lübeck; he returned to Hamburg on 4/16 January 1888 — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  74. Hans von Bülow had been one of the earliest champions of Tchaikovsky's music outside Russia. After his concert tour to Russia in February-April 1874 (reviewed by Tchaikovsky in TH 288), Bülow had returned to his home in Italy, where in May he attended two performances of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar in Milan. In his review of the latter entitled "Musikalisches aus Italien", published in the Allgemeine Zeitung (21 and 22 May 1874), Bülow not only discussed Glinka's opera but also stated generally that "Russia today is not lacking in highly gifted creative talents in the field of music", amongst whom there was "only one who, like Glinka, is tirelessly 'exerting himself in striving' [strebend sich bemüht—a famous quote from Goethe's Faust] and whose works so far, even if they have not yet reached the maturity which corresponds to his talent, nevertheless already give us the most reliable pledge that this maturity will definitely come soon. I am referring to Herr Tschaikowsky, a young professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory. A fine String Quartet [No. 1] by him has already taken root in several German cities; similar attention ought to be paid to his piano compositions, two symphonies, and above all an exceptionally interesting overture to Romeo and Juliet, which is distinguished by originality and a blossoming melodic flow....". A year later, Karl Klindworth would advise Tchaikovsky to send the score of his Piano Concerto No. 1, which had been so cruelly rejected by Nikolay Rubinstein, to his friend Bülow, and the latter was immediately captivated by the work, which, as he promised the composer, he would play during his tour to the United States in the autumn of 1875. The world première of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in Boston on 13/25 October 1875 was thus the second major service rendered by Bülow to Tchaikovsky, but by no means the last (see also Note 13 above). For Bülow's 1874 article, see: Thomas Kohlhase, An Tschaikowsky scheiden sich die Geister. Textzeugnisse der Čajkovskij-Rezeption, 1866-2004 (2006), pp. 54–55 — translator's note.
  75. Vasily Sapelnikov (1867–1941), famous Russian pianist, based mainly in Western Europe (Germany and Italy). The concert described here by Tchaikovsky was the start of Sapelnikov's career as a concert pianist, which would extend to the mid-1930s — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  76. In the second half of this concert organized by the Hamburg Philharmonic Society at the Conventgarten on 8/20 January 1888, Tchaikovsky conducted the following works: his Serenade for String Orchestra, Piano Concerto No. 1 (soloist Vasily Sapelnikov), and the Tema con variazioni movement from Suite No. 3note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  77. This Gala Evening organized by the Hamburg "Tonkünstlerverein" in Tchaikovsky's honour took place on 9/21 January 1888 and included the following works by the composer: Thème original et variations—No. 6 of the Six Pieces, Op. 19, the songs Softly the Spirit Flew Up to Heaven—No. 2 of the Seven Romances, Op. 47—and Why?—No. 3 of the Six Romances, Op. 28—the piano pieces Romance, Op. 5, and Scherzo à la russe, Op. 1/1, as well as the songs He Loved Me So Much—No. 4 of the Six Romances, Op. 28—andWas it the Mother Who Bore Me?—No. 5 of the Six Romances and Songs, Op. 27note by Vasily Yakovlev (amended by Ernst Kuhn).
  78. Daniel Rahter(1828–1891), German publisher, originally director of the A. Büttner publishing firm in Saint Petersburg; in 1879 he set up his own music publishing house in Hamburg which published the scores of Yevgeny Onegin, The Queen of Spades, and Iolantanote by Ernst Kuhn, supplemented by the translator.
  79. Josef Sittard (1846–1903), German music critic and music teacher, based in Hamburg from 1885 — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  80. This review by Sittard appeared in the 21 January 1888 issue of the Hamburgischer Correspondent. It is also reprinted in Thomas Kohlhase, An Tschaikowsky scheiden sich die Geister. Textzeugnisse der Čajkovskij-Rezeption, 1866-2004 (2006), pp. 105–106. Although the tone of the review is indeed very much as Tchaikovsky describes it above (e.g. Sittard speaks of elements of "artistic brutality" in his music, of "a preference for eccentric harmonic turns and bizarre orchestral effects", the inferiority of the Russian's "unbridled and wild fantasy" with respect to the lofty German spirit, and of Tchaikovsky's "eclecticism" etc.) the stern German critic does not actually use the word "nihilism" (a concept that was associated with the young Russian generation ever since Ivan Turgenev's novel Fathers and Children (1862), which had soon been translated into all of the principal European languages) — translator's note.
  81. Hugo Riemann (1849–1919), famous German musicologist.
  82. Cornelius Gurlitt (1820–1901), German composer and organist, honorary member of the Hamburg Society of Musicians (Tonkünstlerverein) — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  83. Arnold Krug (1849–1904), German composer and music teacher.
  84. Carl Friedrich Armbrust (1849–1896), virtuoso organist, worked at the St Peter's Church (Petrikirche) in Hamburg from 1869 — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  85. This is Rosa Newmarch's pithy (and precise) English translation of the Russian proverb: «на безрыбии и рак рыба», which corresponds to the more familiar English saying: "in the land of the blind the one-eyed is king" — translator's note.
  86. The building of the Philharmonie in Berlin was destroyed by bombing during World War II — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  87. Tchaikovsky departed from Hamburg on 10/22 January 1888 and travelled to Berlin, Magdeburg, and Leipzig, then returned to Berlin on 21 January/2 February 1888. The rehearsals for this concert in Berlin took place on 22 January/3 February, 26 January/7 February, and 27 January/8 February (in the morning). The concert itself took place on the evening of 27 January/8 February 1888 and included the following works: the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet, the Piano Concerto No. 1 (soloist: Aleksandr Ziloti), the Introduzione e Fuga from the Suite No. 1, the Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1 (arr. for orchestra), four songs (vocalist: Aline Friede), and the festival overture The Year 1812note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  88. The festival overture was a commissioned work, written in 1880 for an exhibition. As a symbol of the Russian victory over Napoleon the Tsarist anthem is cited as well asLa Marseillaise (although neither anthem was actually in use at the time of the events depicted)— note by Ernst Kuhn.
  89. Moritz Moszkowski (1854–1925), Polish pianist and composer.
  90. Heinrich Ehrlich (1822–1899), German pianist and author of books on music, taught at the Stern Conservatoire in Berlinnote by Ernst Kuhn.
  91. Aline Friede (1856–1946), Lithuanian-born German soprano — translator's note.
  92. Hermann Wolff(1845–1902), concert agent and author of books on music; in 1880 he set up a concert management office in Berlinnote by Ernst Kuhn.
  93. Emile Sauret (1852–1920), famous French violin virtuoso, taught at the Stern Conservatoire in Berlin, was later based in London and Chicago — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  94. Tchaikovsky and Grieg visited Désirée Artôt-Padilla on 26 January/7 February 1888. Three days later, on 29 January/10 February 1888, Tchaikovsky left Berlin to travel on to Leipzig and from there went to Praguenote by Vasily Yakovlev.
  95. Velebín Urbánek (1853–1892), music publisher in Praguenote by Ernst Kuhn.
  96. Tchaikovsky is thinking of Russia's war with Turkey in 1878–79 to defend the oppressed Christians in Bulgaria and Bosnia, and in support of Serbia and Montenegro — translator's note.
  97. This chapter and the beginning of the following one were not included in Herman Laroche's 1898 edition of Tchaikovsky's music review articles — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  98. This concert took place on 7/19 February 1888 in the Rudolfinum in Prague and featured the following works by Tchaikovsky: the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet, Piano Concerto No. 1 (soloist: Aleksandr Ziloti), the Elègie from Suite No. 3, the Violin Concerto (soloist: Karel Haliř), and the festival overture The Year 1812note by Ernst Kuhn.
  99. Tchaikovsky's account breaks off here.
  100. In his foreword to the 1894 text, Modest Tchaikovsky explained why his brother had written this account: "When back home in Russia he realised that the public knew almost nothing about his tour abroad, that the newspapers had not reported anything about it, he drew up a detailed account, on the basis of his diary, of how, as he put it in one of his letters, 'in the course of three months a Russian musician acquitted himself with honour in holding aloft the banner of our native art in all the music centres of Europe'. Unfortunately, the deceased did not complete his account. He stopped at the point where he would have had to start talking not only about the way he was cordially received (as had been the case in Germany, for example), but also about the festivities and celebrations in his honour which went on for more than ten days in Prague. Nowhere else and on no other occasion before or after did he receive such a celebration in his honour as in Prague. Now the very solemnity and enthusiastic nature of this reception acted as an obstacle preventing him from continuing his autobiographical account of this tour. A mere dry catalogue of those days' events would have seemed like self-aggrandizement, which, given my brother's characteristic modesty with regard to his own person, was profoundly disagreeable to him. He abandoned his intention of publishing an account of his tour, not wishing to impose his own person on readers' attention for too long, and broke off his narrative" — note by Vasily Yakovlev (quotation rendered into English by the translator).