Letter 3820a

Date 9/21 March 1889
Addressed to Josef Sittard
Where written Paris
Language German
Autograph Location Tübingen (Germany): Private collection
Publication Musiker der Spätromantik. Unbekannte Briefe aus dem Nachlass von Josef und Alfred Sittard (1979), p. 77
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том XVII (1981), p. 250–251
Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006), p. 98-99, p. 264-265 (facsimile)

Text and Translation

German text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
21 März '89

Verehrter Freund!

Ihre Kritik über meine Simphonie, die beiden Artikel über Berlioz und Ihre freundliche Zeilen habe ich erhalten. Danke Ihnen herzlich für die Kritik und nicht nur für das, was gedruckt ist, aber auch für das, was ich zwischen [den] Zeilen lese und fühle, d. h. Freundligkeit und Sympathie für meine musicalische Thätigkeit. Ich möchte noch vieles darüber sagen, aber wirklich kann [ich] es deutsch nicht. Kann ich Ihnen in solch einer Gelegenheit französisch schreiben? In dieser Sprache bin ich nicht so dumm wie in Ihriger.

Ich bin diese ganze Zeit unwohl und verbleibe schon einige Tage in meinem Zimmer.

Noch einmal danke Ihnen herzlich!

Auf Wiedersehen!


P. Tschaikovsky

21 March 1889

Dear friend!

I have received your review of my symphony [1], the two articles on Berlioz and your friendly lines [2]. I thank you cordially for the review, and not just for what is printed in it, but also for what I can read and feel between the lines, that is, friendliness and sympathy for my musical activity. I would like to say a lot more about this, but, truly, I cannot do so in German. May I write to you in French regarding this matter? In that language I am not as stupid as in yours.

I have been feeling unwell all this time, and for several days now I have been keeping to my room [3].

Once again I thank you sincerely!

Until we meet!

Most devoted,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. In his review of the concert in Hamburg on 3/15 March 1889 at which Tchaikovsky conducted the first performance in Germany of his Symphony No. 5, Sittard had spoken very positively of that work: "Even if the invention is not always original, even if the composer sometimes (as, for example, in the development section of the Andante cantabile) comes close to the style of lyrical opera, all four movements nonetheless contain so much that is beautiful, interesting, and distinctive, that we may certainly call the E minor symphony one of the most significant symphonic works of modern times. This applies also to the thematic development, as well as to the brilliant, albeit often too dense, instrumentation. Some of the motifs as such may perhaps not be able to lay claim to outstanding musical interest, yet Tchaikovsky knows how to shape them meaningfully and to lead them to a culmination which is as powerful as it is effective. No less deserving of praise is his sense for formal beauty, for the harmonic symmetry in which the individual sections of the movements are related to one another". Sittard's review, which appeared in the 16 March 1889 [N.S.] issue of the Hamburgischer Correspondent, is quoted in full in Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006), p. 91–94.
  2. Tchaikovsky had left Hamburg on the day after his concert, travelling first to Hanover, where he stayed for a few days before heading for Paris. He arrived in the French capital on 8/20 March 1889, and it seems that Sittard had sent him a copy of his review to Paris.
  3. Tchaikovsky was suffering from a dental abscess. See the diary entries for 7/19 and 8/20 March 1889 translated by Wladimir Lakond in The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 265–266.