Letter 2839

Tchaikovsky Research
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Date 22 December 1885/3 January 1886
Addressed to Félix Mackar
Where written Maydanovo
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique
Publication Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 49–50
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIII (1971), p. 224–225

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
22 Décembre 1885/3 Janvier 1886
Klin, Maïdanowo

Mon bien cher ami!

Je reviens à la campagne après une semaine passée à Moscou d'où les affaires m'ont empeché de V[ou]s écrire.

J'ai parlé à Jurgenson à propos de «Manfred» et de la manière dont à l'avenir nous traiterons ces choses-la. Il m'a annoncé que déjà il V[ou]s avait offert les droits sur Manfred et que V[ou]s aviez consenti à payer 1000 francs. Il dit que, vu mon incapacité de faire valoir mes œuvres, il a pris sur lui de sauvegarder mes interets et c'est pour cela, qu'il s'est permis de V[ou]s faire ses propositions, sans avoir préalablement demandé mon autorisation. Je lui ai dit que maintenant que nous sommes avec V[ou]s en correspondance, nous n'avions plus besoin d'intermédiaire. Il m'a répondu que certainement c'etait mon droit de trancher ces questions là de ma propre initiative, — mais j'ai vu que cela lui deplaisait fort et qu'il voudrait, comme il l'a toujours fait, acquérir les droits sur mes œuvres pour tous pays. Je lui ai promis de penser à cela quand je reviendrai chez moi et de lui donner plus tard ma réponse décisive. Vous me voyez dans la plus grande perplexité ; je ne sais vraiment comment faire. D'un côté il me serait pénible de désobliger un viel ami, d'un autre coté je voudrais être juste et ne pas paraitre ingrat vis a vis de Vous. Quant à «Manfred», je crois que c'est la meilleure de toutes mes compositions simphoniques. Je voudrais qu'elle me rapportat quelque chose, car elle m'a couté enormément de peine, mais en même temps je sais que c'est une simphonie trop compliquée, trop difficile pour être souvent jouée et que par conséquent elle re rapportera rien à mes éditeurs, ou plutot elle leur causera des pertes sensibles. A parler franchement, ma raison me conseille de profiter des occasions qui me donnent le moyen de gagner quelques centaines de roubles (car je vis de mon travail) mais mon cœur me dicte la décision suivante : je veux dire à Jurgenson, que vu l'impossibilité de compter sur un grand succès d'argent avec «Manfred», je renonce aux honoraires et ne veux recevoir un sou ni de lui ni de Vous et que par conséquent il doit V[ou]s faire savoir que V[ou]s n'aurez pas à payer 1000 francs pour avoir les droits sur cette œuvre et que je V[ou]s cède ces droits gratis.

Voila ce que je dois faire selon ma conscience et ce que je suis déjà décidé de faire. Nous verrons plus tard, quand j'aurai quelque chose de prêt, ce qu'il y aura à faire pour que tout le monde soit content.

Pour la pièce russe ; comptez-y toujours, mon cher ami ; dans quelques semaines V[ou]s l'aurez.

Je V[ou]s demande pardon de ne pas V[ou]s avoir encore envoyé ma notice biographique. Je le ferai bientôt et V[ou]s l'enverrai immédiatement.

Quant à l'affaire Bote et Bock ; je V[ou]s envoie la lettre que M[onsieu]r Bock vient de m'adresser en réponse à la mienne.

Sur ce, je V[ou]s serre cordialement la main et V[ou]s prie de croire à mes meilleurs sentiments.

P. Tschaïkovsky

22 December 1885/3 January 1886
Klin, Maydanovo

My very dear friend!

I have returned to the country after spending a week in Moscow — business matters prevented me from writing to you from there.

I have spoken to Jurgenson regarding "Manfred" and the way in which we are to deal with such matters in future [1]. He explained to me that he had already offered you the rights to Manfred, and that you had agreed to pay 1,000 francs for them. He said that, in view of my inability to assert myself when it comes to promoting my works, he has taken upon himself the task of protecting my interests, and that for that reason he had taken the liberty of making you these offers without having previously asked for my permission. I told him that now that you and I are corresponding with one another, we would no longer need an intermediary. He replied that I was of course entitled to decide such matters on my own initiative, but I could see that he was greatly displeased by this, and that he would like to acquire the rights to my works for all countries, as he has always done in the past. I promised him to think this over when I got back home and to give him my definitive answer later. As you can see, I am in the greatest quandary — I truly do not know what I should do. On the one hand, it would be painful for me to have to do a bad turn to an old friend; on the other, I would like to be fair and not come across as ungrateful towards you. As for "Manfred", I think it is the best of all my symphonic compositions. I would like it to win me some money, since it has cost me a tremendous amount of effort, but at the same time I know this is a symphony which is too complicated and difficult to be played frequently, and that consequently it will not bring any profit to my publishers, or rather, it will cause them a significant loss. If I may speak frankly with you, my reason counsels me to take advantage of opportunities which give me the means to earn a few hundred rubles (since I make my living from my work), but my heart dictates the following decision to me: I want to tell Jurgenson that, in view of the impossibility of expecting a big financial success from "Manfred", I waive any fee due to me and do not wish to receive a single penny from him or from you, and that consequently he must inform you that you do not have to pay 1,000 francs for the rights to this work and that I transfer these rights to you for free [2].

This, then, is what I must do in accordance with my conscience, and what I have already resolved upon doing. We shall see later, when I have completed something else, what should be done so that everyone is happy.

As for the Russian piece, you can still count on it, my dear friend. You shall have it in a few weeks' time [3].

I beg your pardon for not having yet sent you my biographical notice. I will do this very soon, and will then send it to you immediately [4].

As for the Bote and Bock affair, I am enclosing the letter which Mr Bock has just sent me in reply to mine [5].

Whereupon, I would like to shake your hand warmly and ask you to be assured of my best regards.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. In one of his earlier letters to Tchaikovsky from Paris on 18/30 November 1885, Mackar had enquired whether the composer was bound by a contract to Jurgenson regarding all his future works, and he had also asked if Tchaikovsky could give him a description of any new works he was then completing. — see Mackar's letter in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 148–150. In his reply to that letter on 22 November/4 December Tchaikovsky had explained that his latest work was the Manfred symphony (Letter 2819). Tchaikovsky evidently also realised that Mackar was subtly trying to find out whether in future he could send his works directly to him for publication (independently of Jurgenson), for in Letter 2830 to the Frenchman on 9/21 December he wrote: "As for my other future works (Manfred, for example), I do not yet know how I can transfer the rights to you without offending Jurgenson. It seems to me that, since you and I have established a direct relationship which is already friendly, and which will become even more so once I have made your personal acquaintance, it would be perfectly straightforward and fair for us to do business with one another without having Jurgenson as an intermediary. All he will have to do is to deduct from the sum he pays me the part for France and Belgium. In five days' time I shall be going to Moscow, and during my first meeting with Jurgenson I shall speak to him about this and will let you know the outcome of our conversation".
  2. The full score of the Manfred symphony was eventually published by Jurgenson in February 1886. At Tchaikovsky's request Jurgenson assigned to Mackar the right to print the score in Paris for distribution in all other countries.
  3. Tchaikovsky had agreed to write a piano piece based on Russian folk themes specially for Mackar. He did not, though, get round to fulfilling this request until February 1886, when he wrote the piano piece Dumka (subtitled "Russian rustic scene"). However, Jurgenson chose not to forward the manuscript to Mackar in Paris and published it himself later that year.
  4. See Letter 2854 to Mackar of 14/26 January 1886. Mackar had asked Tchaikovsky for some information about himself and his career so that he could pass it on to "biographers, the press, and anyone who can be of help in propagating your works here," as he wrote to the composer on 18/30 November 1885.
  5. Mackar was very keen to acquire the rights to the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet from the Berlin-based firm of Bote & Bock, and in his letter to Tchaikovsky of 18/30 November he had asked the composer to help him by writing to the firm. Tchaikovsky complied and on 9/21 December sent a letter to Hugo Bock which has not come down to us. Although Bock's reply (which Tchaikovsky enclosed with the above letter to Mackar) has not survived either, we know that it was positive from the grateful letter which Tchaikovsky wrote to his earliest German publisher on the same day as the above (Letter 2839a).