Letter 46

Tchaikovsky Research
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Date between 7/19 and 10/22 January 1852
Addressed to Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya and Ilya Tchaikovsky
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 69–70)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 41–42 ("5–6 January")
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 47–48

Text and Translation

Spelling and punctuation errors in the original text have not been indicated.

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Chers Papa et Maman

Je vous baise la main de tout mon coeur mes Anges et je ne sais pas méme comment exprimer comme je vous aime.

Avant-hier Tante Lyse a été chez nous c'est à dire chez Nicolas parce que j'étais déja à l'école de Droit. Elle vous salut de tout son coeur, et vous baise mille fois.

Vraiement aujourd'hui je n'ai rien pour vous écrire — éxcepté que je vous aime et je vous adore.

Pas longtemps je jouais à l'école du piano. Je commencais à jouer «Соловей» tout a coup je me rappelle comme je jouais cette piéce autre fois. Une tristesse affreuse s'empare de moi: tantôt je me rappelais comme je la jouais à Alapaeff le soir et vous écoutiez, tantôt je me rappelle comme je la jouais il y à quatre ans à St. Pétersbourg avec mon maitre M[onsieur] Philippoff, tantot je me rappelais comme vous chantiez avec mois ensemble cette pièce en un mot je m'étais rappelé que c'était toujours votre pièce favorite. Mais bientôt denouveau une éspérance brille dans mon ésprit: je crois: tel jour ou telle nuit vous viendrez denouveau, et je serai denouveau dans ma maison paternelle. Je vous baise les mains autant de fois que de gouttes dans la mer.

Je prie votre bénédiction.

Votre fils
Pierre Tchaikovsky

P. S. La petite fille de Monsieur Platon est malade, et c'est pourquoi il ne peut pas aller avec nous demain au thèatre.

Hier le 5 Janvier j'etais au théatre, je n'ai pas le temps de vous le décrire. Je vous remercie.


Dear Papa and Mama

I kiss your hands with all my heart, my Angels, and I do not even know how to convey how I love you.

The day before yesterday, Aunt Liza came to see us, that is, she saw just Nikolay because I was already at the School of Jurisprudence. She greets you with all her heart and kisses you a thousand times.

Truly, I have nothing to write to you about today — except that I love you and adore you.

I was recently playing the piano at the school [1]. I began to play "The Nightingale" [2], and suddenly I remembered how I used to play this piece in the past. A terrible sadness came over me: now I recalled how I would play it in Alapayevsk in the evenings with you listening, now I recalled how I played it four years ago in Saint Petersburg with my teacher, Mr Filippov [3], now I recalled how you would sing this piece together with me — in short, I remembered that this was always your favourite piece [4]. But very soon a ray of hope began to shine again in my soul: I believe : some day, or some night, you will come again, and I shall again be in my parental home. I kiss your hands as many times as there are drops of water in the sea.

I ask for your blessing.

Your son
Pyotr Tchaikovsky

P. S. The little daughter of Mr Platon is ill, and that is why he cannot go to the theatre with us tomorrow [5].

Yesterday, on 5 January, I was at the theatre: I don't have enough time to describe it to you. I thank you.


Notes and References

  1. During the first decade after its foundation (in 1835), pupils at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence had been encouraged to cultivate musical interests by the school's founder, Prince Pyotr of Oldenburg (1812-1881), a great music-lover. However, in the 1850s, when Tchaikovsky was at the school, music was given a rather less prominent role within its walls, and although the future composer did have lessons with the school's music teacher, Franz Becker, they were, by his own admission, quite uninspiring. Nevertheless, the school made available a music room with a piano for pupils' use in their spare hours, and this letter shows that young Pyotr was irresistibly drawn to the instrument on which he had started having lessons in Votkinsk at the age of 4 or 5. For more information on Tchaikovsky's study of music during his years at the School of Jurisprudence, see Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 87-90.
  2. The Nightingale (Соловей), a popular romance composed in 1826 by Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Alyabyev (1787–1851) to verses by Anton Antonovich Delvig (1798–1831).
  3. Filippov, whose Christian name and patronymic have not come down to us, was a private music teacher engaged to give piano lessons to Pyotr shortly after the Tchaikovskys moved to Saint Petersburg in November 1848. These lessons did not last very long because only six months later, in May 1849, the Tchaikovskys left the Imperial capital and moved to Alapayevsk in the Urals, but Pyotr nevertheless seems to have benefited from them and made considerable progress. See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 45. Filippov was not the future composer's first music teacher, though: that was Mariya Palchikova, whom Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya engaged for her 4-year-old son when the family was still living in Votkinsk. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 34.
  4. Twenty-five years later, Tchaikovsky would confess [in Letter 557 to Nadezhda von Meck on 3/15 May 1877]: "Sometimes in music one likes things which are quite elusive and cannot be subjected to analysis. I cannot hear Aliabyev's The Nightingale without tears in my eyes!!! And yet, the verdict of various authorities is that it is the height of banality" — note by Vladimir Zhdanov inП. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 661. Modest Tchaikovsky, who cited the above letter in his biography of the composer, observed in a footnote: "Here is it appropriate to state that Pyotr Ilyich retained a life-long affection for this hackneyed romance, and in one of his later letters (in 1879) he says that he considers its first section one of the most 'inspired melodies' — so vivid and strong were the memories of childhood for him". See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 68.
  5. Platon Alekseyevich Vakar (1826–1899) was the guardian of young Pyotr and his brother Nikolay from early/mid-May 1851 until Ilya Tchaikovsky was able to move to Saint Petersburg with the rest of the family in May 1852. Platon Vakar was himself a graduate of the School of Jurisprudence, and it is possible that he played a part in Ilya Tchaikovsky's decision to enrol Pyotr in the school proper after he had completed the preparatory class. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 45.