Letter 4385

Date 29 May/10 June 1891
Addressed to William von Sachs
Where written Maydanovo
Language French
Autograph Location Moscow (Russia): Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XVI-А (1976), p. 117–118
Tchaikovsky in America. The composer's visit in 1891 (1986), p. 161–162 (English translation)

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Ronald de Vet
Kline, près [de] Moscou,
29/10 Juin 1891

Mon bien cher ami!

Je viens de rentrer chez moi et y trouve Votre bonne lettre. Merci beaucoup! Merci aussi pour Votre portrait, qui, quoique bien petit, est trés ressemblant! J'ai fait une excellente traversée. De Hambourg, sans m'arreter, je suis allé à Petersbourg. Certes, mon séjour à New-York m'a laissé un souvenir ineffaçable et je pense avec grand plaisir à une deuxième excursion dans Vos parages, — mais cela n'empèche pas que j'ai été bien aise de me retrouves dans mon pays et de revoir tous les miens.

Aprés mûre réflexion j'ai décidé de rester tranquillement chez moi pendant tout l'été; je ne vais donc pas à Bayreuth, malgré le vif desir d'entendre «Parsival» et de Vous y revoir. Il faut travailer; je suis resté trop longtemps oisif et pour remplir tout ce que j'ai promis il faut que je reste plusieurs mois sans interruption chez moi.

C'est bien dommage que Vous ne pourrez pas assister à la premiere représentation de la «Dame de Pique» à Hambourg. Je serais si content de Vous y revoir! Pourquoi est-ce absolument necessaire que, Vous rentriez à New-York pour le I-er September? J'ai la fatuité de croire que mon opéra Vous interesserait. Esperons que Vous l'entendrez à New-York, ou en Allemagne quand Vous y reviendrez.

Il a été question de me faire venir chez Vous en Janvier, mais cela n'est pas encore décidé. Dans tous les cas je Vous dis «au revoir!» Merci encore une fois pour Votre lettre; ne m'oubliez pas! Donnez moi de temps en temps de Vos nouvelles! Je Vous embrasse.

Votre ami devoué,

P. Tschaïkovsky

Si, par hasard, je change de résolution et me decide à aller à Bayreuth, tout de suite je Vous en avertirai.

Klin, near Moscow,
29 [May]/10 June 1891

My dearest friend!

I just came home and found your kind letter. Thank you very much! Thank you also for your portrait, which, although quite small, is a very good likeness! I've made an excellent crossing [1]. From Hamburg, without stopping off, I went to Petersburg. My stay in New York has certainly left me with indelible memories, and I think with great pleasure about a second trip to your neighbourhood, — but all the same I am delighted to be back in my homeland and to see all my family and friends again.

After careful thought I have decided to stay quietly at home during the whole summer; so I will not go to Bayreuth, in spite of my strong desire to hear Parsifal and to see you again there [2]. I have to work; I have been idle too long, and in order to carry out all that I have promised [3], I have to stay at home for several months without a break.

It's a great pity that you will not be able to be present at the first performance of The Queen of Spades in Hamburg [4]. I would be so pleased to see you again there! Why is it absolutely necessary that you will be back in New York by 1st September? I have the complacency to think that my opera would interest you. Let us hope that you will hear it in New York, or in Germany when you return there.

There has been some talk about my coming back to your country in January, but it has not yet been decided upon [5]. In any case I say to you "goodbye till we meet again!" Thank you once again for your letter; don't forget me! Let me know from time to time how you are getting on! I embrace you.

Your devoted friend,

P. Tchaikovsky

If by any chance I change my mind and decide to go to Bayreuth, I will inform you immediately.

Notes and References

  1. From New York, Tchaikovsky had made the return voyage to Europe with a German ship, the Fürst Bismarck.
  2. This would have been Tchaikovsky's second visit to Bayreuth, where he had attended the inaugural Ring cycle in 1876. The 1891 Parsifal there was conducted by Hermann Levi (1839-1900).
  3. The opera Iolanta and the ballet The Nutcracker, both commissioned for the 1891/92 season by the director of the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky theatre, Ivan Vsevolozhsky. Tchaikovsky didn't manage to finish the works in time and asked Vsevolozhsky to agree to postpone them until the next season (see Letter 4363, 3/15 April 1891). He finished the opera later in 1891, and the ballet in 1892.
  4. The first Hamburg performance of The Queen of Spades was planned for September 1891 and Tchaikovsky had agreed to be present, as he wrote in Letter 4452 to his brother Modest on 7/19 August 1891. But the next month, the director of the Hamburg Opera, Bernhard Pollini, proposed to Tchaikovsky that Yevgeny Onegin be staged instead of The Queen of Spades, and to do so in January 1892, because the orchestral parts had not been printed yet. This forced Tchaikovsky to cancel a visit to Sophie Menter, as he explained to her in Letter 4477 on 22 September/4 October 1891. The date given in П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XVI-А (1976), p. 119, for the first Hamburg performance (conducted by Gustav Mahler) of The Queen of Spades, viz. 7/19 January 1892, is not correct—it is in fact the date of the first Hamburg performance of Yevgeny Onegin. The first time Mahler conducted The Queen of Spades was on 9 December 1902, in Vienna. The first Hamburg performance of The Queen of Spades took place only on 21 May 1953, and was conducted by Wilhelm Schleuning. See Joachim Wenzel, Geschichte der Hamburger Oper 1678-1978 (Hamburg, 1978); Peter Feddersen, Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006).
  5. See also Letter 4603 of 17/29 January 1892, also to William von Sachs.