Letter 3747

Tchaikovsky Research
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Date 26 December 1888/7 January 1889
Addressed to Félix Mackar
Where written Frolovskoye
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique
Publication Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 72
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIV (1974), p. 608

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
26 Déc[embre] [18]88/7 Janvier [18]89
Kline, près Moscou, Frolowskoye

Mon bien cher ami!

Je viens de rentrer chez moi si accablé de fatigue que ne puis aujourd'hui qu'une bien courte petite missive. J'ai trop de choses à te conter ; il faut remettre le plaisir d'une bonne petite causerie à plus tard. Depuis deux mois à peu près je ne fais que sortir et entrer en wagon! Pense donc! Deux grands concerts à Petersbourg, une excursion à Prague (concert et opera à repeter et à conduire), un séjour de quelques jours à Petersbourg à cause d'un triste événement de famille, deux concerts à Moscou, de nouveau un concert à Petersbourg, et avec tout cela des epreuves à corriger et un train de diable de vie à mener dans toutes ces péregrinations!!! Je suis fort content des bonnes nouvelles que tu me donne! Reçois ainsi que M[ada]me Mackar mes félicitations et mes souhaits pour le nouvel An!

Je reste ici un mois environ, et puis commenceront mes nouvelles péregrinations. Je viendrai à Paris certainement environ vers le mois de Mars. Nous nous verrons et nous causerons.

Jusque là au revoir[,] cher ami! Je t'embrasse!

P. Tschaïkovsky

26 December 1888/7 January 1889
Klin, near Moscow, Frolovskoye

My very dear friend!

I have just returned home in such a state of exhaustion that all I can manage today is a quite brief little epistle. I have too many things I'd like to tell you; I shall have to put off the pleasure of a nice little chat until somewhat later. For almost two months I have literally done nothing but go in and out of railway carriages! Just think! Two big concerts in Petersburg [1], a trip to Prague (where I had to rehearse and conduct a concert and an opera) [2], a stay of a few days in Petersburg due to sad family reasons [3], two concerts in Moscow [4], then yet another concert in Petersburg [5], and alongside all this I had proofs to go through and had to keep up a diabolically hectic pace of life throughout all these peregrinations!!! I am very happy about the good news which you passed on to me![6] Please accept, together with Madame Mackar [7], my congratulations and best wishes for the New Year!

I am staying here for about a month, after which my peregrinations will begin afresh. I shall definitely be coming to Paris around March. We will meet then and have a chat [8].

Until then goodbye, dear friend! I embrace you!

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. On 5/17 November 1888 Tchaikovsky had conducted a concert of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Society which featured the premiere of the Symphony No. 5, as well as other works of his, including the Piano Concerto No. 2 (soloist Vasily Sapelnikov), and also Herman Laroche's Overture-Fantasia (recently orchestrated by Tchaikovsky on behalf of his old friend). A week later, on 12/24 November, he had conducted the Russian Musical Society's third symphonic concert of the season in Saint Petersburg which featured the premiere of the overture-fantasia Hamlet and the second performance of the Symphony No. 5.
  2. Tchaikovsky had stayed in Prague from 15/27 November to 25 November/7 December 1888, conducting a concert of his own works (on 18/30 November) which featured the Symphony No. 5 and the Piano Concerto No. 2 (soloist Sapelnikov), and also the first performance outside Russia of his opera Yevgeny Onegin (at the National Theatre on 24 November/6 December).
  3. On 7/19 November 1888 the composer's niece, Vera Rimskaya-Korsakova (née Davydova) had died in Nice. She was just 25 years old. Tchaikovsky received the sad news while stopping briefly in Vienna on the way back to Russia from Prague, and it affected him deeply. See letter 3731 to Nadezhda von Meck of 26 November/8 December 1888. The two days he spent in Saint Petersburg from 29 November/11 December to 30 November/12 December were presumably to give moral support to Vera's parents, Aleksandra and Lev Davydov, and perhaps also to attend the funeral service for his niece.
  4. On 10/22 December 1888 Tchaikovsky conducted the Russian Musical Society's fifth symphonic concert of the season in Moscow which featured the first performance there of the Symphony No. 5 and the Piano Concerto No. 2 (soloist Vasily Sapelnikov). The concert was repeated the following day at reduced ticket prices to allow less affluent music-lovers in the old capital to hear Tchaikovsky's new symphony.
  5. On 17/29 December 1888 Tchaikovsky took part in the fifth "Russian Symphony Concert" of the season in Saint Petersburg (a concert series funded by Mitrofan Belyayev) at which he conducted his orchestral fantasia The Tempest.
  6. In his letter from Paris on 15/27 October 1888 Mackar had informed Tchaikovsky that over the summer Édouard Colonne had conducted some of his works at Aix-les-Bains, and that they had all been encored. He added that he would be seeing Colonne soon and that they would then discuss the possibility of inviting Tchaikovsky to conduct in Paris again that winter. Mackar's letter has been published (in an abridged Russian translation) in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 160.
  7. Mackar's wife, Valérie. During his stay in Paris in February–March 1888 Tchaikovsky had presented her with one of the prints of the portrait photograph taken of him at E. Bieber's atelier in Hamburg. He wrote on it the following inscription: "Madame Valérie Mackar souvenir affectueux" and sketched three bars from the Andante cantabile of his String Quartet No. 1 — see Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 94. The portrait in question appears as no. 60 in our Catalogue of Photographs.
  8. Tchaikovsky would stay in Paris from 8/20 March to 28 March/9 April 1889, and though he did not himself conduct any concerts on that occasion, a number of musical events were held in his honour. It was also on that occasion that he made the acquaintance of Massenet.