Letter 115

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Date 3/15 March 1868
Addressed to Mily Balakirev
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 11, л. 5–6)
Publication Переписка М. А. Балакирева и П. И. Чайковского (1868-1891) [1912], p. 17
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 134–135
Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 120

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Москва, 3 марта

Добрейший Милий Алексеевич!

Рубинштейн выздоровел и пустился во все тяжкие, т. е. по нескольку раз в день играет на всевозможных концертах. Следующие две недели он посвящает разъездам по губернским городам, а на шестой прибудет в Петербург. Время у него до того занято, что он положительно не успеет просмотреть и повторить концерт Листа, а потому просит Вас удержать на программе Венгерскую фантазию. Автор «Рогнеды» находится здесь и ведёт себя престранным образом: в квартеты и концерты Музыкального общества является каждый раз, сидит на почётном месте, зевает, поощрительно хлопает, — но ни с кем и знаться не хочет, впрочем к нашему большому удовольствию. Он даже, привлечённый князем Одоевским, пришёл однажды в консерваторию на репетицию квартета, но не удостоил своим посещением Рубинштейна, по болезни не выходившего из своей комнаты. Ваша увертюра стояла на программе нашего 9 концерта, но так как Вы прислали только партитуру, а не партии, — то, по неимению времени для переписки, — мы были лишены удовольствия её слышать. Как жалко, что Вы не прислали её несколько раньше!

Серов на будущей неделе даёт в театре свой концерт; он рискует иметь пустую залу и плохое исполнение, так как музыканты, измученные разными концертами, даваемыми Дирекциею, решительно бунтуют и играют отвратительно.На днях высылаю Вам и прошу принять четырёхручную аранжировку моих «Танцев», потрудитесь передать таковую же Римскому-Корсакову, которого я не знаю, но люблю от всей души.

Преданный Вам,

П. Чайковский

Moscow, 3 March

Rubinstein has recovered and is back in full swing, that is, he is playing in all kinds of various concerts several times a day. The next two weeks he will be touring the provincial towns, but in the sixth week [1] he will arrive in Petersburg. His schedule is so busy that he simply does not have time to look through and practice Liszt's concerto [2], and so he asks you to keep the Hungarian Fantasy [3] on the programme. The author of "Rogneda" is here and is behaving in a most bizarre fashion: he turns up each time at the Musical Society's chamber music and orchestral concerts, occupies a seat in the front row, yawns, claps encouragingly, but absolutely refuses to have to do with anyone — to our great satisfaction, by the way. Lured by Prince Odoyevsky [4], he once even came to the Conservatory for a chamber music rehearsal, but did not deign to call on Rubinstein, who was too ill to step out of his office. Your overture [5] was included in the programme of our 9th concert, but since you just sent the score, rather than the parts, and there was no time to copy these from the score, we were deprived of the pleasure of hearing it. What a pity that you did not send it a bit earlier!

Next week, Serov is giving a concert of his own works at the theatre. There is a risk that he will be faced with an empty auditorium and a poor performance, because the musicians, worn out as they are by the various concerts organized by the Directorate [of the Imperial Theatres] are positively rebelling and playing atrociously [6]. In a few days' time I shall send off and kindly ask you to accept the four-handed arrangement of my "Dances" [7]. Be so kind as to forward a copy to Rimsky-Korsakov, whom I do not know personally, but whom I love with all my heart [8].

Yours devotedly,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The sixth week of Great Lent, which in 1868 was in the second half of March [O.S.].
  2. In his earlier letter to Tchaikovsky (written by 1/13 March 1868), discussing the details of the concert which Nikolay Rubinstein had agreed to give for the Free Music School in Saint Petersburg, Balakirev had suggested that the latter should playLiszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major. See Balakirev's letter in Милий Алексеевич Балакирев. Воспоминания и письма (1962), p. 119.
  3. Liszt's Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Melodies, for piano and orchestra, an arrangement of his own Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14.
  4. Prince Vladimir Odoyevsky (1804–1869), a distinguished writer and music-lover who wrote some very good pieces of music criticism (especially on Glinka's operas).
  5. Balakirev's symphonic tableau 1000 Years, also known as the Second Overture on Russian Themes (written for the 1862 festivities to mark the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of the Russian state, traditionally dated to the summoning of the Varangians to rule over the Kievan Rus' in 862).
  6. A concert featuring Serov's works (mainly excerpts from his operas) was held at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre on 10/22 March 1869.
  7. Tchaikovsky's own arrangement for piano duet of the Dances of the Chambermaids from his opera The Voyevoda.
  8. See Tchaikovsky's first music review article, Regarding Mr Rimsky-Korsakov's "Serbian Fantasy" (published in the Moscow journal Contemporary Chronicle, 10 March 1868), in which he enthusiastically paid tribute to the younger composer.