The Musical Society. Response to an Anonymous Correspondent. Two Examples of Muscovite Music Criticism

The Musical Society. Response to an Anonymous Correspondent. Two Examples of Muscovite Music Criticism (Музыкальное общество. Ответ анонимному корреспонденту. Два образчика московской городской музыкальной критики) [1] (TH 311 ; ČW 577) was Tchaikovsky's forty-sixth music-review article for the Moscow journal Russian Register (Русские ведомости), in which it was published on 23 November 1875 [O.S.].

This article contains interesting remarks on Niels Gade which reflect Tchaikovsky's sympathy for Scandinavian folksongs; a remarkable description of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony as a "bacchanalia of joyful sounds", preceded by equally fascinating observations on the "tragic struggle between the isolated human soul and Fate" which was otherwise Beethoven's main theme, and which he had conveyed in the first three movements of the Ninth (and the Fifth), to be resolved by "a triumph of spirit over flesh, of life over death" in the finale; a lament for the untimely death of Mendelssohn who had died almost as young as Mozart and Schubert; a tribute to the virtuoso cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen; an extensive refutation of those who praised Dmitry Slavyansky for his supposed achievements in acquainting the educated classes with Russian folksong, in which Tchaikovsky pulls out all the stops of his caustic irony to show that Slavyansky was a fraud; a discussion of how Russian folksongs, which were not yet works of art as such but rather like dormant "seeds", could, if planted and reared by able "gardeners" (such as Glinka, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Musorgsky), indeed grow into "wondrously luxuriant musical trees"; a striking description of Russian song as a "holy of holies of our folk art" [святыня нашего народного творчества] which had to be approached with great piety (as Balakirev had done); a bitter reflection that "99.5 %" of Moscow's population knew nothing of the works of Glinka, "this colossal artist"; and sarcastic ripostes to several of Tchaikovsky's own detractors

History

Completed by 23 November/5 December 1875 (date of publication). Concerning the Russian Musical Society's second symphony concert in Moscow on 14/26 November 1875, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein and featuring Niels Gade's Scottish Overture, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60, excerpts from Mendelssohn's unfinished opera Die Loreley (begun in 1847), and Joachim Raff's Cello Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 193 (soloist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen); a polemic with the apologists of Dmitry Slavyansky's "Russian concerts"; and two samples of uninformed and unfair music 'criticism' which had recently appeared in other Moscow-based newspapers.

English translation

Copyright notice
English text copyright © 2009 Luis Sundkvist.
See our Terms of Use

The Musical Society

The Russian Musical Society's second symphony concert opened with Niels Gade's overture Im Hochland [2]. Gade is one of the most prominent contemporary composers belonging to the school of Mendelssohn and Schumann. He does not have a high-calibre talent, and it is quite possible that amidst the numerous followers of the two aforesaid composers he would have remained unnoticed somewhere in the background, were it not for the fact that Gade is a Dane by birth, and that, even against his will perhaps, in his works we sometimes hear a certain Scandinavian strain which imbues them with the melancholy colour of Nature in the North—a colour that is not without its own special poetry [3]. There is one overture by Gade, called Ossian [4], in which this aspect of his creative individuality manifests itself with remarkable intensity. It also makes itself felt in the overture "Im Hochland", especially in the incredibly delicate and graceful Introduction. All in all, even if this work is not striking or stunning as such, one does listen to it with great interest and pleasure all the way through.

The other symphonic work on the programme was Beethoven's Fourth Symphony in B-flat. What an incomparable and thrilling work! How perfect it is both in terms of its basic ideas and its form! What mastery, unfading freshness and originality in both the themes and all the details! If one had to classify Beethoven's symphonic creations according to the spirit and character prevailing in each one, then the Fourth Symphony, together with the Eighth, as well as the Op. 124 overture [5], would have to be ranged amongst those works of his which are devoted to the depiction of joyful sensations, to the musical illustration of wholehearted contentment with life, happiness, and all-embracing love.

In the Fourth Symphony we are not dealing with that tragic rejoicing of the highest forces of Nature which we otherwise hear in the finale of the Fifth and that of the Ninth after the preceding movements have conveyed with such staggering truthfulness the torments of the isolated human soul in its struggle with Fate and all the thorns strewn in the earthly vale of tears [6]. In these last works it is as if Beethoven were trying to express the idea that even if the soul of every human being is feeble and condemned to eternal trials and suffering, in the end the spirit will nevertheless triumph over the flesh, life over death, Heaven over Earth.

True, these works grip one more profoundly, they shake and excite one with greater intensity, but on the other hand the Fourth Symphony does pour into your soul a mighty flow of joyful feelings and so much love for life and for other people, that, when listening to it, you forget that roses do not blossom all the time, that the glowing sun does not always give us warmth, that nightingales do not sing incessantly, that it is not always so that meadows are green and limpid streams ripple freely through them. Yes, music of this kind carries us away to such an extent from the prose of real life that for a long time after it has ceased to sound you have trouble believing that there are such things on Earth as war, illness, and poverty; that baseness triumphs everywhere; that scheming people get on very nicely in the world; that there exist capital cities with no carriageways but with poor street-lighting, with no well-equipped national opera-house but with a bank that has gone bust; that the chef at your restaurant regales you with rotten beef-steaks; that your landlord lets you freeze to death in a cold flat; and, last but not least, that Mr Slavyansky [7] gives "Russian" concerts and that the Moscow correspondent of The Voice [Голос] (the newspaper for which Mr Laroche writes—our best music critic, who is well-known in Moscow too) discusses these with deadly earnest in his feuilleton articles and goes into raptures over Mr Slavyansky's triumphs…

The symphony opens with a wonderful Introduction, which, as one well-known author has put it, involuntarily fills the mind with a notion of a limitless, bright and gentle calm [8]. Little by little the orchestra begins to liven up; the joyful theme of the following Allegro appears briefly as a hint, and then, finally, after the key's dominant chord (the tonic triad) has been sounded tentatively a few times in a row, the whole orchestra bursts out into a kind of frenzied bacchanalia of joyful sounds, amidst which passionate love episodes flash by us here and there.

The Andante is a veritable love-scene, with its initially timid, but then more distinct declarations, with all its yearning, its anxious expectation, emotional outpourings and embraces. The Scherzo is charming in its artlessly rural, simple-heartedly naïve colouring. The final movement is like a fantastic scene from the world of magical and microscopic spirits, elves, and gnomes in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream! [9]

The symphony was not performed particularly well, though. The reason is that the Theatres' Directorate, almost as if on purpose, had scheduled for that day a performance by the Italian Opera Company for the first subscription series (which normally takes place on Mondays), as a result of which our best orchestra musicians were not available for the Musical Society's concert. We therefore had to make do with the ballet orchestra, which, though it does have some worthy musicians in its ranks, is not used to playing the classical repertoire, and so it kept getting into a muddle and losing its way in places. I should, however, point out that this was mainly the case in the Andante, in the central section of which the first clarinet started to play out of time and threw the rest of the orchestra into confusion. The other movements went much more smoothly.

At this concert we also heard some excerpts from Mendelssohn's unfinished opera Die Loreley. The prima donna Madame Raab [10] had come over specially from Saint Petersburg for this performance, and she caused a very favourable impression indeed on the audience. Madame Raab has a wonderful soprano voice which is soft but sonorous, and even and strong across her whole range. Her singing is masterly and confident and rests on a most subtle musical understanding. The chorus also sang very well. While listening to these fragments, I almost burst into tears when I recalled how cruelly and prematurely Mendelssohn was swept away by death, at a time when his development as a composer had reached its apogee. What an opera he would have left us with if only Fate had given him five or six more years of life! But poor Mendelssohn died almost as soon as he reached maturity, like Schubert, like Mozart!…

The soloist that evening was Mr Fitzenhagen, who gave a very successful performance of Raff's concerto [11]. I am very glad that our public is beginning to appreciate this wonderful virtuoso as he so rightly deserves. Mr Fitzenhagen's technique is tremendous, he has a mellow, soft sound and a fine sense of measure in his phrasing—what more could one ask of a virtuoso? As for the actual work he performed, like all of Raff's compositions it is intelligent and elegant, it shows an impeccable facture and is noble and beautiful from beginning to end. True, the themes are not particularly original, but in view of the shortage of works specifically for the cello this is not a flaw which we need lament too much. The fact alone that it gives the soloist a chance to unfold and exhibit the many-sided qualities of his virtuosity is in itself a sufficient recommendation for the work. The orchestration has been done very thoroughly and delicately, so that the solo instrument is not drowned out anywhere.

What can I say about the Italian Opera? Madame Patti has left us, and now even the most zealous chronicler would be unable to find any facts worth airing in the press in the lamentable vegetating existence of this shrewd commercial enterprise. After all, surely it cannot interest readers to be informed that Madame de Maësen [12] has successfully sung this or that note in some particular role under so and so circumstances, or that M. Capoul [13], when turning gracefully towards the prima donna, made this or that beautiful gesture with his hand! All that is petty, insignificant, and likely to interest only the most inveterate Italomanes, who attend the Italian Opera's performances not so much for the sake of aesthetic pleasure, but rather because they are looking for an agreeable way to while away the time in a more or less select company.

Reply to an Anonymous Correspondent

I once told my readers that amongst the various more or less unpleasant consequences of my work as a critic is also the fact that I am sent anonymous letters [14]—and in fact I get quite a lot of these… On the whole these missives are written in a style just as illiterate as their content is childishly naïve, and it goes without saying that I generally see no need to reply to my anonymous correspondents by means of an article in the press. A few days ago, however, I received a letter which had evidently been sent by someone who, first of all, loves music, and, secondly, is an intelligent and enlightened person. Since it is possible that apart from this anonymous writer there are other enlightened readers who share his opinion about my obligations as a critic and my errors, I think it would not be out of place to cross swords with my correspondent on the pages of this journal. I shall answer him on three counts:

1) "Mr Slavyansky," my correspondent tells me, "is considered by most people to be an artist worthy of respect, and were it only because he acquaints the public with our native songs, most of which are quite unfamiliar to the latter."

In reply to this I shall give a résumé of Mr Slavyansky's artistic career and a brief appraisal of his work.

Being endowed by nature with a fine little tenor voice, Mr Slavyansky decided to become a singer. He studied both in Italy and in Saint Petersburg with the now deceased professor of singing Piccioli. He made his début under his real name in Saint Petersburg, at one of the Russian Musical Society's symphony concerts, where he performed a Mozart aria [15]. It was a fiasco. However, Mr Slavyansky did not allow himself to be discouraged and attempted to secure an engagement at the Mariinsky Theatre. This attempt was not successful: not only was our artist not engaged—he wasn't even invited to give a trial performance.

But even then Mr Slavyansky did not lose heart! Now all these events I am relating here took place in those memorable times when our Slavic brothers were very much in vogue, when ethnographic exhibitions were organized here in Moscow and Messrs Slivčak, Hlavacký, Palacký [16], Rieger [17] e tutti quanti were stuffed with food at banquets in both our capitals and had their lives poisoned by endless speeches, receptions, solemn gatherings, picnics, and so on.

Anyway, so what did Mr Slavyansky now do? First of all, he exchanged the surname that had been bequeathed to him by his forefathers for a flashy pseudonym which was in keeping with the spirit of the times. Then our enterprising singer dressed up in some special sort of pan-Slavic costume and appeared in the various concert venues of our capitals, accompanied by several equally dressed-up Czechs (amongst whom, by the way, there were two or three good friends of mine who had never even set eyes on the shores of the Sava, Drava, Tisza, and Drissa) [18], to treat us to Czech and Serbian folksongs, as well as all kinds of songs by our other Slavic brothers.

The colourful tassels and jack-boots did succeed in attracting some attention, and the songs enticed one or two friends of the Slavic movement to attend Mr Slavyansky's concerts, but still it all failed to cause the desired impression, and very soon people stopped talking about Mr Slavyansky altogether. So instead of our Slavic brothers he now decided to turn to our trans-Atlantic friends. And thus we find Mr Slavyansky sailing away to America in order to regale our allies over there with Russian songs and Askold's Tomb [19].

However, things didn't turn out as he had expected. The trans-Atlantic friends refused to swallow the bait, Mr Slavyansky's troupe fell apart, complaints were raised against him, and the courts of justice had to intervene. Finding himself in real trouble, our hero quickly sailed back to Russia. This time Mr Slavyansky decided to discard his bizarre pan-Slavic costume and presented himself in part as the propagandist of a special kind of American music, from whose repertoire he singled out an American Waltz for his advertising posters (this Waltz is, by the way, his own composition!), and in part as a performer of Russian folksongs.

And that is when things take a completely new turn. His new act all at once acquires a great vogue. Mr Slavyansky's concerts—where alongside the American Waltz, some popular romances which have absolutely nothing in common with folksong, the hit "Masha my dove" [Голубка Маша] and a Quadrille (sic!) of Russian folksongs, he performs various ditties with spicy texts of the sort you find among common people, such as "Eh you, whoa, young steer!" [Ах ты, тпруська бычок!]—Mr Slavyansky's concerts, I repeat, manage to draw massive crowds. Moreover, there are also people who hail Mr Slavyansky in the newspapers for the services he has rendered to Russian music, for his profound knowledge of the folksong heritage, for his selfless devotion to national art—and before you know it our Slavo-American singer has become the hero of the day.

Then, like that hero in Molière's comedy who is delighted to learn that all his life he has been speaking prose without realizing it, Mr Slavyansky gladly persuades himself on the basis of these newspaper eulogies that he had always been a fervent admirer of Russian folksong, and that his whole life—which he had spent now in army drill exercises, now in Italy having singing lessons, now in the costume of a 'Slavic brother' supposedly cultivating the national muse of our fellow-Slavs, now in negotiating various adventures during his American travels—had nevertheless been wholly and selflessly devoted to the elaboration of products bearing the seal of Russian musical craftsmanship.

Accordingly, his sphere of action expands further. Mr Slavyansky decides on Moscow as his main headquarters. Here he organizes not just concerts, but whole public festivities at the Manege. He assembles a large chorus, buys a river steamboat, and uses it to travel through Russia. He even reaches the most distant Asiatic borderlands, making sure to collect everywhere the tribute which is due to him as the hero of Russian folk-art. Every now and then he returns to Moscow, the cradle of his first triumphs, the city which fostered and nurtured his patriotic self-abnegation on behalf of Russian music. However, it isn't simply the case that whenever Mr Slavyansky returns here he has merely enriched his repertoire with a host of new songs to complement his wonderful "Eh you, whoa, young steer!"—no, he will also present himself before us as a collector and transcriberof Russian folksongs!!!

And so what does Mr Slavyansky's achievement essentially consist of? If it is said to lie in the fact that, despite having suffered irreparable failures in his career as a singer, he did not lose heart and that, instead of abandoning himself to drink, as is the custom in Russia, he not only managed to extricate himself from unfavourable circumstances, but has even attained the most enviable prosperity—then I will certainly not contest that achievement. Indeed, I would suggest to everyone who is starting off in life to take Mr Slavyansky as a role-model, since he has struggled so vigorously against his own lack of talent and managed to emerge victorious.

If, however, Mr Slavyansky is to be proclaimed a hero who has always held aloft the banner of Russian music, all adversities notwithstanding, then I must resolutely assert that only those people who don't have a clue about music in general and about Russian folksong in particular could possibly think that way.

Russian folksong, by virtue of its original structure, the peculiarities of its melodic contours, the originality of its rhythm, which in most cases cannot be accommodated into the standard beat divisions, constitutes highly valuable material for the educated and talented musician who, under specific circumstances, can make use of it successfully. Indeed, all our composers have done so and drawn from it an ample stream of inspiration: Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Serov, Messrs A. Rubinstein, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Musorgsky, etc.

Considered on its own and in its original shape, the Russian folksong, being a formless product and the result of an exclusively instinctive creative process, does not have the status of a work of art. It is no more than a grain of seed from which the artist, insofar as he has the requisite talent and training, can cause a luxuriant tree to grow. That someone is fond of violets, roses, and lilies, likes to look at them and enjoys their pleasant aroma, does not automatically mean that he will also go into raptures at the sight of the seeds. And yet a skilled gardener is able to get all the aforesaid flowers to sprout from these seeds. With regard to Russian folksong, a musician and artist is only then able to fulfil that role of 'gardener' if he knows exactly into which soil, at what time, and under which temperature conditions this valuable grain of seed is to be planted. But not everyone is able to be a truly good gardener [20].

The traditional Russian epic song [bylina], the Russian fairy-tale, and the Russian folksong all have to be handled competently. For example, the Tale of Bova the King's Son [Сказка о Бове Королевиче], in that form in which it was created and has been preserved among the people, has the makings of a wonderfully original literary work. However, the publisher, or, rather, speculator from Nikolskaya Street [21] who issues it for consumption by the people in a primitive chapbook edition [22] is simply debasing and distorting this tale. True, it will sell in hundreds of thousands of copies whilst editions of the works of Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, and Koltsov generate sales of just a few hundred copies at most, but this fact merely testifies to the lamentable ignorance of the masses and can in no way induce a literary critic to treat such an edition from Nikolskaya Street as if it were a serious work of Russian literature.

So why, then, should Mr Slavyansky, who with regard to Russian folksong stands in exactly the same relation as some Mr Leukhin [23] or other to the Tale of Bova the King's Son, be deemed worthy of being discussed by a music critic? Just as the cheap print editions of Nikolskaya Street are beyond the sphere of serious literature, so Mr Slavyansky, this chapbook-like singer, has condemned himself to being systematically ignored by any self-respecting chronicler of Russian music life.

Russian folksong can interest us as a highly beautiful ethnographic phenomenon, as an original product of the people's creative individuality—but in that case it is necessary either to hear the song in situ, that is as it is performed by the people in that characteristic manner which is so appealing to the Russian ear; or one can send for real minstrels from the rural depths of Russia, as was the case, for example, with Ostap Veresai [24], who last year attracted the attention of all Saint Petersburg.

Or, finally, one can turn to the collections of folksongs, which we admittedly do not have so many of, but which do include such a magnificent edition as the collection published by Mr Balakirev [25]. In order to record and harmonize a Russian folksong without distorting it and ensuring that all its characteristic peculiarities are carefully preserved, it takes such a thorough and comprehensive musical education, such a profound knowledge of the history of art, and at the same time such a powerful talent as Mr Balakirev is so clearly endowed with. Anyone who, despite not being the latter's equal in terms of education and understanding (quite apart from talent), publicly proclaims himself to be "a collector and arranger" of Russian folksongs, shows merely that he has no respect either for himself, for his art, for his people or for his audience [26].

Someone who in this way desecrates with sacrilegious hands the holy of holies of our folk art forfeits every right to call himself an artist, since he is pursuing non-artistic goals—goals which have nothing whatsoever in common with art. And even if Mr Slavyansky's success were ten times greater than that with which he has hitherto been rewarded for his endeavours on behalf of Russian art, I would still ignore him as the personification of a fact which falls outside my province as a music critic…

What concern is it of mine that the Zamoskvorech'e [27] public with its backwoods mentality has made an idol out of him? After all I know full well that if Mr Slavyansky were to include in the programmes of his concerts such songs as "It was a bit cold" [Было холодно немножко] or "Eh you, so-and-so, Kamarino bumpkin!" [Ах ты, такой-сякой, камаринский мужик] [28] , this idolization of him would increase even further still. Now surely, just because I have taken upon myself the obligations of a music chronicler, no one can seriously expect me to analyze, interpret, and comment on musical buffooneries of this sort?!

2) My anonymous correspondent tells me that vague rumours are circulating about my supposedly personal animosity towards Mr Slavyansky and that I am therefore inclined to treat him unfairly. May I hasten to assure my correspondent that I have never seen Mr Slavyansky other than on the concert podium, that I have never had the honour of being introduced to him personally, and that, if I am acting unfairly in any way, then this could only be out of ignorance or incomprehension on my part! For I say and write about him what I really do sincerely think of him, and if I am somehow wrong, then do not forget the adage: errare humanum est.

But do you know what, my venerable—and anonymous!—correspondent: just go round and ask all the musicians who are living in Moscow what they think of Mr Slavyansky—and I can assure you that you will get a response which will leave you quite flabbergasted. For you will find out then that in comparison to my professional colleagues I am as gentle as a dove in my choice of words!

3) You advise me to use my voice in the press to enlighten the deluded public and open its eyes, since "with unfounded accusations", to cite your own words, "it is impossible to achieve anything!" Open the eyes of the public which attends Mr Slavyansky's concerts!!! Why, do you realize what that would mean? To achieve that it would be necessary to re-educate the public completely, to raise its musical appreciation to the level of Europe [29], to get it to read Pushkin and Koltsov instead of the chapbooks printed on Nikolskaya Street with the Tale of Bova the King's Son, and so on. In other words, it would take a combination of such factors and conditions as could never possibly be brought about by a humble music critic.

And besides, to tell the truth, it would be rather embarrassing too. For if that public which you want me to wean away from Mr Slavyansky asks me what kinds of performances it should visit instead, what shall I say to them? Remember that you and I are living in a city where there is no permanent venue for Russian opera, where 99% of the population have not even heard the name of Glinka, whereby one half of that remaining one percent are simply just aware of his existence, and it is only the other half-percent who are actually familiar with the works of this colossal artist! Moreover, even if I could sabotage Mr Slavyansky's box-office returns, I would not wish to do so at all! Let him get rich and prosper in peace! He is at any rate a skilful and (in a pragmatic sense) talented fellow.

Two Examples of Muscovite Music Criticism

Someone has just shown me two delightful little flowers picked from the lush garden of Muscovite music criticism. In one Moscow-based newspaper a lady who belongs to the admirers of Mr Slavyansky's innumerable merits has lambasted me with a whole cannonade of her polemic fervour because I dared to make a disrespectful comment about her idol. In this fascinating philippic, which is pervaded throughout by a remarkable self-confidence, she reproaches me, amongst other things, for having devoted all my life to the arrangement of Hungarian songs!!! Well, with exactly the same self-confidence I could reply to this lady as follows:

"Dear Madam, I know that you are constantly at work pickling cucumbers, but I have noticed that you always season them with a lot of garlic beforehand. Now it would be far better if, instead of this unpleasantly smelling substance, you were to add a pinch of dill, pepper, or cloves to your cucumbers!"

Another little newspaper, which is published in a foreign language [30], informs its readers that Beethoven's symphony and Gade's overture were performed so badly that its sensitive little ears were mightily offended. From the very first chord to the last, so it claims, the orchestra did not manage to play a single note in tune.

Well, I must say that this may be a tiny little newspaper, but it is certainly a big liar. Its claim that the overture was played out of tune is a lie. Similarly, its claim that the symphony was massacred at this concert is also a lie, because a couple of bars messed up by the first clarinet, which confused the rest of the orchestra for a few moments, by no means imply that the whole performance of the work was a downright failure. Moreover, its assertion that Madame Raab suffered a complete fiasco (as our little newspaper so nicely put it!) is a lie, too! Equally false was its observation that at the next concert (which was already this Friday) the public would get to hear the weaker ballet orchestra again.

However, by not saying a single word about Mr Fitzenhagen, who treated us to such a successful performance of Raff's interesting concerto, this newspaper did something worse than merely lying!… O you little foreign newspaper, I say it again, what a big and unscrupulous liar you are!

P. Tchaikovsky.


Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'The Musical Society. Reply to an Anonymous Correspondent. Two Examples of Moscow's Music Criticism' in TH, and 'The Musical Society—Benefit Night of Ms. Patti—Mr. Demidov' in ČW.
  2. Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817–1890), famous Danish composer. He wrote his Scottish Overture "Im Hochland" [In the Highlands], Op. 7, in 1842 — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  3. See also Tchaikovsky's comments in TH 268 about Svendsen's Violin Concerto and about the affinity between Scandinavian and Russian folksongs. It was perhaps also this to some extent that would later attract him to Edvard Grieg's music — translator's note.
  4. Tchaikovsky is referring to Gade's famous overture Efterklange af Ossian [Echoes of Ossian], Op. 1 (written in 1839), with which the 24-year-old composer and violinist at the Royal Danish Orchestra had won first prize at a competition organized by the Copenhagen Musical Society — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  5. The Consecration of the House overture, which Tchaikovsky discusses (quite critically in fact) in TH 295note by Ernst Kuhn.
  6. See TH 301 for an earlier interpretation in this vein of the choral finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. In his music review articles Tchaikovsky does not discuss the Fifth in detail (e.g. mentioning it only briefly in TH 306) — translator's note.
  7. Dmitry Slavyansky (originally Agrenev; 1836–1908), Russian singer and choir-master who became very popular in the 1870s and 80s with his choral performances of Russian folksongs, and even toured the United States with his choir. Tchaikovsky always had a very low opinion of him (see e.g. TH 261), and further on in this article he gives a damning survey of Slavyansky's 'artistic career'.
  8. It is not clear which author Tchaikovsky is referring to here. Berlioz wrote a notable essay on the Fourth Symphony (available online [1] in an excellent translation by Michel Austin), but he does not describe the Adagio in quite these terms, and Tchaikovsky would probably not have referred to Berlioz as an "author" [писатель—i.e. "writer"] anyway. A relevant passage appears in an essay by the German composer and music critic Emil Naumann (1827–1888): Ludwig van Beethoven (Berlin, 1871), originally delivered as a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Tchaikovsky had a very good reading knowledge of German and he may well have read Naumann's essay when working on his unfinished article Beethoven and His Time (TH 275) in 1872–73. Alternatively, it is possible that the essay was translated into French and then it would be more likely that Tchaikovsky had read it. What is certain is that Naumann's essay was translated into English in 1872 and published in the Quarterly German Magazine. This translation is available online [2] in various formats, and the passage in question occurs on p.23 (in the original pagination): "…The Adagio is like the calm mountain-lake on the crystal surface of which a wonderfully fantastic landscape, filling the mind with magical peace, is reflected". The fact that Naumann's essays was translated into English so soon, suggests that it was well-known amongst professional musicians — translator's note.
  9. As in other articles, Tchaikovsky refers to the symphony's four movements using the generic terms. Beethoven's specific tempo markings for the Fourth are: I. Adagio—Allegro vivace; II. Adagio; III. Menuetto (& Trio); IV. Allegro ma non troppo — translator's note.
  10. Vilgelmina Ivanovna Raab (née Balik, Plyushchevskaya-Plyushchik in her second marriage; 1848–1917), Russian soprano, soloist at the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre from 1871 to 1885 — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  11. Joachim Raff (1822–1882), Swiss composer, teacher and pianist..
  12. Camilla de Maësen (1842–1906), Belgian soprano (her actual name was: Camilla van der Maësen d'Avionpuits); from 1862 she sang in Brussels, Milan, and Parisnote by Ernst Kuhn.
  13. Joseph-Amédée-Victor Capoul (1839–1924), French tenor, engaged for a while at the Opéra-Comique in Parisnote by Ernst Kuhn.
  14. See the section entitled "A Frank Discussion with the Reader" in TH 308.
  15. Dmitry Agrenev (Slavyansky) made his début at the sixty symphony concert of the Saint Petersburg branch of the Russian Musical Society on 29 January/ 10 February 1864. He sang the aria "Il mio tesoro" from Don Giovanni, as well as Glinka's setting of Pushkin's poem 'I Remember the Wondrous Moment' (Я помню чудное мгновение) — note by Vasily Yakovlev.
  16. František Palacký (1798–1876), Czech politician and historian, author of The History of the Czech nation in Bohemia and Moravia (in 5 vols, 1836–67). From 1861 he was leader of the nationalist-federal party (staročeši — the "Old Czechs") in the Austrian senate and in the Bohemian Diet — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  17. František Ladislav Rieger (1818–1903), Czech politician; together with his father-in-law František Palacký, he was leader of the Czech National Party (the conservative "Old Czech" faction). He called for the establishment of an autonomous Czech monarchy with its seat of government in Praguenote by Ernst Kuhn.
  18. These are all names of rivers in the West Slavic territories of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  19. Askold's Tomb (Аскольдова могила) is an 1835 opera by Aleksey Nikolayevich Verstovsky (1799–1862), based on a novel by Mikhail Zagoskin. With its Russian-folk-style songs and choruses, its sentimental romances, and its couplet-like musical forms (borrowed from French vaudeville), it remained a very popular opera in Russia for quite a long time — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  20. This whole paragraph 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. The exact wording in Russian will have to be checked eventually, but this must be one of the most remarkable statements ever made by Tchaikovsky about Russian folksong (see also Note 15 in TH 278). Tchaikovsky would take up this horticultural analogy again in 1880 (letter 1565 to Sergey Taneyev, 15/27 August–24 August/5 September 1880), where he likens European music to "a whole orchard of trees" in which folksongs could indeed act as a stimulus for further luxuriant growth (though not exclusively so, as the young Taneyev tended to believe) — translator's note.
  21. The first Russian publishing house—the Printing Office (Печатный двор)—was set up in this central street of Moscow around 1554. Another building on this street housed the Glazunov Bookshop and Lending Library (the largest in the city), and during the nineteenth century it was the street with the highest number of bookshops — translator's note.
  22. Tchaikovsky is referring to the traditional Russian lubok (лубок), a type of woodcut print which was used in chapbooks for less sophisticated readers — translator's note.
  23. S. I. Leukhin (Леухин) was a Muscovite book-seller and publisher, one of the market-leaders in the production of cheap and tasteless chapbooks for the people. It was partly to combat such firms that Lev Tolstoy and like-minded associates founded the "Intermediary" (Посредник) publishing house in 1885, which set itself the task of providing workers and peasants with morally sound reading matter — translator's note.
  24. Ostap Mikitovich Veresai (1803–1890), blind Ukrainian minstrel and kobza-player, who from the late 1860s attracted the attention of many musicians and scholars with his enormous repertoire. His performances at the 1874 Archaeological Conference in Kiev and in Saint Petersburg in 1875 caused a sensation. The famous Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko wrote a monograph on Veresai and his songs for the Scholarly Transactions of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. It has been pointed out that Veresai's performance of Ukrainian dumy (plural of duma "a traditional epic ballad") eventually inspired Tchaikovsky to write his Dumka for piano solo in 1886, as well as the many famous works by Antonín Dvořák based on the dumka form –— note by Ernst Kuhn (supplemented by the translator).
  25. Tchaikovsky is referring to Balakirev's 1866 Collection of Russian Folksongs (which included 40 songs) — note by Ernst Kuhn.
  26. See Note 15 in TH 278 again for references to the 'quarrel' which Tchaikovsky would have with Tolstoy in 1876 regarding the latter's endeavours to record and transcribe folksongs — translator's note.
  27. Zamoskvorechye (Замоскворечье), which literally means "Beyond-the-Moskva-River", is a historical area of Moscow to the south of the Moskva River, the setting for many of Aleksandr Ostrovsky's plays about the merchant class with its deeply ingrained traditions and prejudices — translator's note.
  28. The latter is the opening line of a variant of the Kamarinskaya [Камаринская] song (originally a peasant wedding dance) in which Tchaikovsky has left out a swear-word (it is not the only one in the song!). This lively song was made famous by Glinka in his famous orchestral fantasy (which Tchaikovsky greatly admired—see Note 3 in TH 286) — translator's note.
  29. The phrase "to the level of Europe" 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.
  30. In 1875 there was only one foreign-language newspaper in Moscow—the Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung [Moscow German Newspaper], which came out three times a week — note by Vasily Yakovlev.