Letter 3474

Date 14/26 January 1888
Addressed to Félix Mackar
Where written Leipzig
Language French
Autograph Location Paris (France): Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique
Publication Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 67
Советская музыка (1970), No. 9, p. 67 (Russian translation)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XIV (1974), p. 339–340

Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
26 Janvier

Mon cher ami!

Je Vous envoie le programme de Hambourg ou j'ai obtenu un vrai succès. Le public, les musiciens m'ont fait un accueil excessivement simpathique. Après le concert un grand raout avec souper a eu lieu chez le Directeur de la Société Philarmonique ; j'ai été vivement touché de la manière dont on s'est comporté vis à vis de moi. Le lendemain le Tonkünstlerverein (Association d'artistes) a donné une soirée de musique de chambre en mon honneur. La presse a été on ne peut mieux. Enfin je suis tout à fait content. De Hambourg je suis allé à Berlin pour régler définitivement l'affaire du Concert. Il aura lieu le 8 Février ; le programme ainsi conçu:

1) "Roméo"'
2) Chant
3) Introduction et Fugue de la Suite № 1
4) Concerto pour piano
5) Chant
6) Andante de l'op. 11
7) Ouverture Triomphale.

L'orchestre est de premier ordre ; cela aura lieu dans la plus grande salle de Berlin. Des invitations m'arrivent de toutes parts. J'ai dû refuser Weimar et Dresde (ce qui est bien dommage, mais ce sera pour l'année prochaine) car le temps me manque.

Vous me demandez si je veux aller conduire à Liège ou à Bruxelles? Mais avec grand plaisir, pourvu que ce soit pas plus tard que fin Mars ou commencement d'Avril et que ce soit des fragments de concert, pas des concerts entiers. Surtout je voudrais Bruxelles car je suppose que l'orchestre de Liège ne doit pas être de premier ordre. Pour le concert de l'Association Franco-Russe, je Vous autorise de conclure en mon nom tout ce que Vous voudrez. Quant à Mr Safonoff Mr Gripenberg pourra s'adresser à lui directement ; Je ne demande pas mieux, mais je Vous recommande beaucoup le pianiste russe Siloti de Leipzig pour lequel ce serait un bonheur. Dites cela à Gripenberg.

Je V[ou]s autorise, mon ami, de faire mettre dans les journaux tout ce que V[ou]s voudrez, mais cependant ne faisons pas trop de réclame ; je V[ou]s avoue que je n'aime pas cela. Pour le programme, pour la question Marsick, je m'en remets complètement à Vous et à Colonne.

Je V[ou]s embrasse, mon cher ami!

P. Tschaïkovsky

Il faut adresser Vos lettres d'après les dates suivantes:

1) Je reste ici jusqu'au 2 Février ; adresse — Hotel Hauffe

2) De 2 à 9 Février je suis à Berlin ; adresse Hôtel St. Petersbourg

3) Je passerai encore 2 jours à Leipzig, le 10, le 11 ; adresse Hotel Hauffe

4) Du 12 au 20 Févr[ier] je serai à Prague. Adresse Autriche, Prague, Mr Velebin Urbanek pour remettre à P. T.

26 January

My dear friend!

I am sending you the programme for Hamburg, where I achieved a genuine success. The public and the musicians gave me an extremely friendly welcome. After the concert there was a big rout and supper at the house of the Director of the Philharmonic Society [1] I was vividly touched by the way in which I was treated there. The following day, the Tonkünstlerverein (Association of Artists) gave a chamber music soirée in my honour. The reviews could not have been better [2]. In short, I am completely satisfied. From Hamburg I went to Berlin in order to settle the question of the concert for good. It will take place on 8 February. The programme has been designed as follows:

1) "Romeo"
2) Songs
3) Introduction and Fugue from the Suite No. 1
4) Concerto for piano
5) Songs
6) Andante from Op. 11
7) Triumphal Overture.

The orchestra is first-class, and it will take place in the largest concert venue in Berlin. I am receiving invitations from all quarters. I had to turn down Weimar and Dresden (which is a great pity, though I will go there next year) because I don't have enough time.

You ask me if I would like to go to Liège or Brussels to conduct there. But of course, with great pleasure — as long as it is not later than the end of March or early April, and that I just have to conduct parts of the concerts rather than entire ones. I would prefer Brussels especially, since I suppose that the orchestra in Liège can't be a first-rate one [3]. Regarding the concert of the Franco-Russian Association, I empower you to make any arrangements you like on my behalf. As for Mr Safonov, Mr Grippenberg can write to him directly. I could not ask for a better performer, though I do strongly recommend to you the Russian pianist Ziloti, who is based in Leipzig, and for whom this would be a felicitous opportunity. Please tell Grippenberg that [4].

I authorize you, my friend, to put anything you like into the papers, but let us not, though, generate too much publicity [5]. For I confess to you that this is something I don't like. As for the programme and the question of Marsick, I leave that entirely up to you and Colonne [6].

I embrace you, my dear friend!

P. Tchaikovsky

You'll have to address your letters in accordance with the following dates:

1) I am staying here until 2 February; the address — Hotel Hauffe

2) From 2 to 9 February I am in Berlin; the address is: Hotel St Petersburg

3) Then I shall spend two more days in Leipzig, the 10th and 11th; the address is: Hotel Hauffe

4) From 12 to 20 February I shall be in Prague. The address is: Austria, Prague, Mr Velebín Urbánek, to be forwarded to P. T.

Notes and References

  1. The Philharmonic Society's director was Julius von Bernuth.
  2. The conservative audience's reaction to Tchaikovsky's concert in Hamburg on 8/20 January 1888 — which featured the Serenade for String Orchestra, the Piano Concerto No. 1 (soloist Vasily Sapelnikov), and the Theme and Variations from the Suite No. 3 — was in fact quite cool, and the reviews were not that positive, with the city's leading critic Josef Sittard pronouncing Tchaikovsky incapable of attaining the "lofty spiritual heights" of German music (though at the same time praising some aspects of his works). The composer was, however, shown great warmth and hospitality by the local musicians and dignitaries, as well as by Sittard himself, and this endeared Hamburg to him probably more than any other of the German cities he visited during his tour. See Chapters X and XI of the Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888. As Peter Feddersen has observed in his invaluable study of Tchaikovsky's contacts with the Hanseatic city, the composer was very pleased to see an authoritative critic like Sittard discuss his works in such detail and in an essentially sympathetic way, all these criticisms notwithstanding, and this explains why his stay in Hamburg left such a favourable impression on him — see Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006).
  3. In a letter from Paris on 10/22 January 1888 Mackar informed Tchaikovsky that his Symphony No. 2 had recently been performed at the Liège Conservatory under the direction of Jean-Théodore Radoux, and he asked the composer whether he would like to give a concert himself in Liège or Brussels. This plan did not work out, however, because after Paris Tchaikovsky travelled directly to London, the last stop of his tour. Mackar's letter has been published (in an abridged Russian translation) in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 157–158.
  4. In his letter of 10/22 January 1888 Mackar wrote that he had made the acquaintance of Aleksandr de Grippenberg, a Russian state councillor who had come to Paris in order to initiate the preparations for a festive concert of Russian music in May that would mark the inauguration of the Franco-Russian Artistic and Literary Association which he wanted to set up. The purpose of this association was to support both Russian artists and writers living in France, and their French colleagues living in Russia. Such leading French composers as Ambroise Thomas, Gounod, and Massenet had reportedly offered their support. Excerpts from works by Glinka and Tchaikovsky were to be performed at this concert, and Grippenberg wondered whether Tchaikovsky would be willing to conduct the orchestra. Grippenberg had also asked Mackar to enquire whether the composer could invite Vasily Safonov (a classmate of Grippenberg's at the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum) to play Tchaikovsky's piano music at this concert. During his stay in Paris a few weeks later Tchaikovsky would record a meeting with Grippenberg on 15/27 February 1888: "Grippenberg and Pryanishnikov. Discussion about the Société Franco-Russe", but it seems that these plans came to nothing. Certainly, Tchaikovsky did not visit Paris again in May or later in 1888 to conduct any such concert. The conductor Nikolay Krotkov (b. 1849) did conduct a concert in Paris on 9/21 April 1888 whose programme consisted mainly of Glinka's works, though it also featured Tchaikovsky's Andante cantabile and Nocturne (soloist Anatoly Brandukov), but it is not clear whether this had anything to do with Grippenberg's project.
  5. Mackar had asked Tchaikovsky whether he could pass on to the press and to influential friends extracts from his letters describing his successes in Germany, all with a view to ensuring that the composer's imminent visit to Paris to conduct at two Châtelet concerts would attract as much attention as possible.
  6. Mackar had explained that Colonne, who had reserved the right to modify Tchaikovsky's proposed programmes for the two Châtelet concerts, was against the inclusion of the Violin Concerto, which Tchaikovsky was hoping would on that occasion be given its first performance in France by the Belgian violinist Martin Pierre Marsick (1848–1924). However, Mackar asked whether rather than cancelling Marsick's engagement altogether it might be a good idea to keep him in reserve in case it did prove possible to organize a further concert. In the end Marsick did appear at the second of the Châtelet concerts conducted by Tchaikovsky, on 28 February/11 March 1888, and played the Violin Concerto (though apparently only the first movement).