Diaries (March 1890)

Tchaikovsky Research
Tchaikovsky's Diaries
1873 June · July
1881 January · February · March · April · May · June
1884 April · May · June
1886 February · March · April · May · June· July · August · September · October · November · December
1887 January · February · March · April · May · June· July · August · September · October · November · December
1888 January · February · March
1889 January · February · March · April · May · June
1890 January · February · March
1891 April · May

Tchaikovsky's Diary No. 10 covers the period from 1/13 January to 15/27 March 1890, and includes his trip to Florence, where he worked on his opera The Queen of Spades, written to a libretto supplied by his brother Modest.

The start of March 1890 found Tchaikovsky at the Hôtel Washington in Florence, accompanied only by his brother's valet, Nazar Litrov. Despite the appearance of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, whose founder, William F. Cody, was also a guest at the same hotel, Tchaikovsky managed to complete the rough draft of his opera The Queen of Spades on 3/15 March, after little more than six weeks. Five days later he became unwell, and in this unhappy state his diary entries eventually petered out on 15/27 March [1].

Text and Translation

The following diary entries were first published in Дневники П. И. Чайковского (1873-1891) (1923), p. 257-259, edited and with notes by the composer's brother Ippolit. They were also translated into English by Wladimir Lakond in The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1945), p. 295-297, and into German by Ernst Kuhn and Hans-Joachim Grimm in P. I. Tschaikowsky. Die Tagebücher (1992), p. 326-328.

The new English translation and detailed commentary published here for the first time was prepared by Brett Langston.

Thursday 1/13 March 1890
Нехорошо спал. Даже был страшный кошмар в начале ночи (шуршание бумаги и движение у меня в комнате). Работал старательно. Погода дивная. После завтрака по жаре (В 1-ый раз потел, как летом) в Cascino. Никого, ибо сегодня первое представление Buffalo Bill, и Назар даже туда проковылял. Наслаждение одиночеством (???) за чаем. Занимался усердно. После обеда прогулка. Фердинандо не пел. Читал Р[усский] Архив. Didn't sleep well. I even had a nightmare at the start of the night (a rustling of paper and movement in my room). Worked diligently. Divine weather. After lunch in the heat (sweating like in summer for the 1st time), to the Cascino [2]. No-one there, because today is Buffalo Bill's first show [3], and even Nazar hobbled there. Enjoying the solitude (???) over tea. Worked hard. Stroll after lunch. Ferdinando [4] didn't sing. Read the Russian Archive [5].
Friday 2/14 March 1890
Нехорошо сплю, вероятно, от усталости в работе. Рождение короля и масса войск с подлой музыкой. Работал. После завтрака ходил на Viale с нижней стороны. На Piazzale масса народа смотрела на Buffalo Bill. Кончал сегодня 7-ю картину (ария ещё осталась). Ужасно плакал, когда Герман испустил дух. Результат усталости, а может быть, того, что в самом деле это хорошо. После обеда обычные шляния. Мандолинист и его симпатичный спутник, вероятно в последний раз мною виденный. Отказ из Pension Française в Риме. Didn't sleep well, probably through working too hard. The King's birthday [6] and mass of troops with foul music. Worked. After lunch walked to the Viale [7] from the lower side. On the Piazzale a mass of people were watching Buffalo Bill. Finished the 7th scene (the aria still remains). I cried terribly when Herman gave up the ghost. The result of fatigue, or perhaps this is actually good. After dinner the usual gadding about. A mandolinist and his sympathetic companion, probably the last time I'll see them. Turned down by the Pension Française in Rome.
Saturday 3/15 March 1890
Отлично спал, благодаря тому что не пьянствовал и лёг рано. Проснулся в 6 час[ов]. Встал гораздо раньше, чем Назар пришёл. До обеда возился с Brindisi. После обеда ходил к Poggio Imperiale, потом в гору, вышел к Torre del Gallo и спустился на Piazzale; смотрел на Buffalo Bill. После чая кончал интродукцию. Перед обедом все кончил. После обеда купил нотной бумаги, пошлялся. Дома писал Модесту и Юргенсону деловые письма. Благодарю Бога, что дал мне силы окончить оперу. Была жара по-летнему. Дождь. Slept splendidly, thanks to the fact that I didn't drink and went to bed early. Woke at 6 o'clock. Rose long before Nazar arrived. Tinkering with the Brindisi [8] until dinner. After dinner I walked to the Poggio Imperiale [9], then up to the hills, reaching the Torre del Gallo [10] , then wondering down to the Piazzale; watched Buffalo Bill. Finished the introduction after tea. Finished everything before dinner. After dinner I bought some music paper and roamed about. At home I wrote business letters to Modest and Jurgenson [11]. I thank God for giving me the strength to finish the opera. The heat was like summer. Rain.
Sunday 4/16 March 1890
Начал клавираусцуг. Погода серая. Очень устал от работы. Ходил вдоль Mugnone. Started the piano reduction. Very tired from work. Walked along the Mugnone [12].
Monday 5/17 March 1890
Работал усердно. Меньше устал. Отказ от Hotel Royal из Рима. Раздумье. Прогулка в пролинной в дождь [...] я и не ожидаю. Решаюсь оставаться во Флоренции. Назар одобряет. Worked hard. Less tired. Turned down by the Hotel Royal in Rome. Meditation. Walked in torrential rain [...] [13] I wasn't expecting. Decided to stay in Florence. Nazar approves.
Tuesday 6/18 March 1890
Работалось хорошо. Адская погода. Однако гулял. Вечером видел Фердинанда, но петь по случаю скверной погоды не велел. Читал. Сокрушался о будто бы пропавших 60 фр[анков] но кажется, это я вообразил. Писал Annette и Коле. Worked well. Hellish weather. Walked anyway. Saw Ferdinando in the evening, but didn't tell him to sing due to the bad weather. Read. Worried that I thought I was missing 60 francs, but it seems I imagined it. Wrote to Annette and Kolya [14].
Wednesday 7/19 March 1890
Погода ужасная. Арно бурлит. После завтрака гулял через силу и нехорошо себя чувствовал. Однако был в Кашино. Работалось хуже. Вечером в церкви. С Назаром вместе домой. Читал Вестник Европы. Awful weather. The Arno is seething. Had a long walk after lunch and didn't fell well. However, I went to the Cascino. Worked poorly. Church in the evening. Went home with Nazar. Read the European Herald [15].
Thursday 8/20 March 1890
Болен. Ill.
Friday 9/21 March 1890
Болен. Ill.
Saturday 10/22 March 1890
Болен. Ill.
Sunday 11/23 March 1890
Болен! Ill!
Monday 12/24 March 1890
Болен! Ill!
Tuesday 13/25 March 1890
Болен! Ill!
Wednesday 14/26 March 1890
Болен! Противно вспоминать это время. Только сегодня к вечеру, кажется, слава Богу, лучше! Ill! Horrible remembering this time. It's only this evening, thank God, that I seem to be better!
Thursday 15/27 March 1890
Хуже, гораздо хуже! Worse, much worse!

Notes and References

  1. After this date, Tchaikovsky made only two subsequent entries in his diary. Under Friday 25 May/6 June, while back at home in Frolovskoye, he noted down the address of an unidentified person (Filatovo, Ryazan station, Baranovsky). On blank space at the end of the diary, he also recorded some brief thoughts on the opera buffa Rinaldo d'Aste (1796) by Gennaro Astarita (c.1745-1805), which was amongst the many eighteenth-century scores he had taken with him to Florence while working on The Queen of Spades.
  2. The Parco delle Cascine, on the north bank of the Arno river. In his diaries and correspondence, Tchaikovsky habitually referred to it by the name "Cascino".
  3. The American soldier and entrepreneur William Frederick Cody (1846–1917), brought his Buffalo Bill's Wild West show to Italy in 1890, arriving in Florence on 27 February/11 March 1890, and giving his last show on 8/20 March (see [1] and [2]). His company occupied several hotels, but Cody himself happened to be a guest at the same hotel as Tchaikovsky.
  4. A boy singer whom Tchaikovsky had heard earlier during his stay.
  5. Russian Archive (Русский архив) was a monthly historical journal published in Moscow between 1863 and 1917.
  6. King Umberto I of Italy (1844–1900) celebrated his 46th birthday on 14 March 1844 [N.S.].
  7. The Viale dei Colli, a long promenade, stretching from the Porta Romana to the Ponte San Niccolò in Florence.
  8. Herman's closing aria from the last scene of The Queen of Spades.
  9. The Villa del Poggio Imperiale, former home of the Medici family, which in 1865 became a boarding school for girls.
  10. A historical fort on the Pian de Giullari, overlooking the city of Florence.
  11. Letter 4057 to Pyotr Jurgenson, and Letter 4058 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 3/15 March 1890.
  12. The Mugnone is a tributary to the River Arno in Florence.
  13. Three lines in the diary were struck out here, and are illegible.
  14. Letter 4059 to Anna (Annette) Merkling, 5/17 March 1890, and Letter 4062 to Nikolay Konradi, dated 6/18 March 1890.
  15. The European Herald (Вестник Европы) was a monthly literary-political magazine, published in Saint Petersburg from 1866 until 1918.