Letter 3832a

Date 30 March/11 April 1889
Addressed to Ethel Smyth
Where written London
Language French
Autograph Location Hamilton (Ontario, Canada): McMaster University. Archives and Research Collections. William Ready Division.
Publication Impressions that remained, vol. 2 (1919), p. 265–266 (Appendix VI)
Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee, and Tchaikovsky (1980), p. 333-334 (English translation)
Tchaikovsky Research Bulletin No. 1 (February 2011), p. 82 (with English translation, p. 82-83)
Чайковский. Новые материалы к творческой биографии (2013), p. 276-277 (with Russian translation, p. 277-279)
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Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
11 Avril 1889

Chère, bonne, et très respectée Miss Smyths!!!

J'ai conservé de Vous le plus simpathique souvenir et je voudrais bien profiter de Votre si aimable invitation! Mais, chère Mademoiselle, — je pars demain, vendredi à 8h. 20m. et il m'est tout à fait impossible de venir vous trouver chez Vous. Espérons que j'aurai plus de chance la fois prochaine quand je viendrai à Londres. Quoique[,] à vrai dire[,] je doute fort que je reviendrai, vu qu'il n'y a pas moyen de faire bien les choses quand on a que deux répétitions[,] et quand le chef d'orchestre a à peine le temps de faire son devoir pour les autres morceaux du programme!

Enfin, — espérons que je reviendrai, et alors mon plus cher voeu sera celui d'aller Vous trouver chez Vous. Je pars demain pour Marseilles, où je prends le bateau à vapeur qui va directement au Caucase, — ce sera une traversée de 15 jours!!

Il y a un mois j'ai vu M. Brodsky et sa chère femme et, cela va sans dire, nous avons beaucoup parlé de Vous. A Hambourg j'ai passé une journée entière avec Votre idole Johannes BRAHMS!!!!! Il a été charmant pour moi. C'est un homme bien simpatique, quoique mon appréciation de son talent ne corresponde pas à la vôtre!

C'est bien dommage que Vous ne serez pas au concert de ce soir. Au revoir, chère Mademoiselle. J'espère que Vous avez composé de bien belles choses, et je vous souhaite toute espèce de prospérité

P. Tschaikowsky

J'espère que Votre cher chien va bien

11 April 1889

Dear, kind, and most respected Miss Smyths!!!

I have retained the most agreeable recollection of you and I would very much like to make use of your so kind invitation! But, dear Mademoiselle, I am leaving tomorrow, that is, on Friday at 8:20 a.m., and it is simply impossible for me to come to see you at your house. Let us hope that I shall have better luck the next time I come to London. Although, to be honest, I doubt very much that I shall come back, given that there is no way of doing things properly when one has no more than two rehearsals, and when the [resident] conductor hardly has any time to do his duty with regard to the other pieces on the programme! [1]

Anyway, let us hope that I shall return, and then my most cherished wish will be to come to see you at your house [2]. Tomorrow I am leaving for Marseilles, where I shall take the steamship which goes directly to the Caucasus. It will be a sea-crossing of 15 days!!

About a month ago I saw Mr Brodsky and his dear wife, and it goes without saying that we talked a lot about you [3]. In Hamburg I spent a whole day with your idol Johannes BRAHMS!!!!! He was delightful towards me [4]. He is a very agreeable man, even though my appreciation of his talent does not square with yours!

It really is a pity that you will not be at this evening's concert. Goodbye, dear Mademoiselle. I hope that you have composed some really fine things, and I wish you every possible happiness.

P. Tschaikowsky

I hope that your dear dog is well [5].

Notes and References

  1. At the Philharmonic Society concert in the Saint James's Hall, London, on 11 April 1889 [N.S.] Tchaikovsky conducted his Piano Concerto No. 1 (soloist Vasily Sapelnikov) and Suite No. 1. At that same concert the Philharmonic Society's resident conductor, Frederick Cowen, conducted Mozart's Symphony No. 39, the overture to William Vincent Wallace's opera Lurline, and accompanied three arias. Tchaikovsky had been given just two rehearsal slots. See Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee, and Tchaikovsky (1980), p. 332–333 .
  2. Tchaikovsky's next visit to London would not take place until the summer of 1893, when he conducted the first British performance of his Fourth Symphony (1 June 1893 [N.S.]). It is not clear whether he met Ethel Smyth on that occasion.
  3. Tchaikovsky had visited Adolph Brodsky and his wife Anna at their Leipzig home on 2 March 1889 [N.S.].
  4. Brahms had prolonged his stay in Hamburg by an extra day in order to attend, on 12 March 1889 [N.S.] the first rehearsal for the concert three days later at which Tchaikovsky was to conduct the first German performance of his Fifth Symphony. After this rehearsal the two composers had had lunch together and emptied a few bottles of wine.
  5. Marco, Ethel Smyth's famously boisterous St Bernard, to whom Tchaikovsky also devoted some lines in his Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888 (TH 316).