Letter 4681b

Date 5/17 May 1892
Addressed to Marie Reno
Where written Klin
Language French
Autograph Location Santa Barbara (California, USA): The Karpeles Manuscript Library
Publication Tchaikovsky Research Bulletin No. 1 (February 2011), p. 93 (with English translation, p. 93-94)
Чайковский. Новые материалы к творческой биографии (2013), p. 322-323 (with Russian translation, p. 323-324)
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Text and Translation

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Klin, près Moscou
5/17 Mai 1892

Chère, bonne, excellente Madame!

Votre bonne lettre est parvenue à son adresse presque juste le 25 Avril/7 Mai. Vous ne sauriez croire combien j'ai été touché de Votre bon souvenir et aussi de ce que Vos charmantes filles aient pensé à moi. Je n'ai pas répondu tout de suite parce-que j'étais très affairé à ce moment là et forcément j'ai du remettre le plaisir de Vous répondre et de Vous remercier jusqu'à mon retour chez moi après un séjour d'un mois entier à Moscou. Me voila arrivé dans mon petit coin et la premiere chose que je fais, c'est de Vous écrire. Je Vous ai écrit très rarement pendant cet hiver — mais certainement j'ai souvent pensé à Vous. Ce n'est pas la paresse qui m'empèchait de prendre la plume en main et envoyer de mes nouvelles à mes meilleurs amis de l'Amerique — mais c'est que tantôt j'étais en voyage, tantôt je travaillais avec acharnement pour terminer à temps mes deux nouvelles œuvres. Maintenant elles sont terminées et seront représentées à St Petersbourg en Novembre. C'est un opera intitulé „Iolande“ et un ballet „Casse-noisette“ qui formeront un seul spectacle.

De temps en temps j'avais de Vos nouvelles par l'entremise du petit Conus et de Brodsky. J'apprends par Votre lettre que Vous passez l'été en Europe. Serez Vous à Vienne? On me fait des propositions pour y conduire un grand concert — mais je ne sais pas encore quand cela aura lieu. Qui sait? — peut étre je Vous y rencontrerai. Que je serais content de Vous voir, de serrer les mains de Mlle Paula et de ma chère petite femme. Je sais que cette lettre arrivera à New-York quand Vous n'y serez plus. Mais j'espère qu'on Vous l'enverra. Madame Margulis vient elle avec Vous? Je Vous en prie, chère Madame, remerciez de ma part Vos filles pour la preuve touchante de leur bon souvenir, saluez Votre mari et croyez dans l'affection sincère et chaude de Votre ami dévoué

P. Tschaïkovsky

Klin, near Moscow
5/17 May 1892

Dear, kind, excellent Madame!

Your kind letter reached its destination almost exactly on 25 April/7 May [1]. You cannot imagine how touched I was by your kind remembrance of me, and also by the fact that your charming daughters had thought about me. I didn't reply at once because I was very busy at that particular moment, and I perforce had to defer the pleasure of replying to you and thanking you until I returned home after spending a whole month in Moscow [2]. Anyway, here I am now in my little corner [3], and the first thing I do is to write to you. I have written to you but very infrequently this winter—yet I have assuredly thought of you very often. It was not laziness which prevented me from taking pen into hand and sending news of myself to my best friends in America, but rather the fact that now I would be travelling, now I would be working frenziedly in order to finish my two new works on time. They have now been completed and will be staged in Saint Petersburg in November. They are an opera entitled Iolanta and a ballet, The Nutcracker, which will together make up a single evening's performance.

From time to time I would receive news of you through little Konyus and through Brodsky [4]. Now I find out from your letter that you will be spending the summer in Europe. Will you be coming to Vienna? I have been made some offers to conduct a big concert there, but I don't know yet when it will take place [5]. Who knows, perhaps I shall meet you there? How happy it would make me to see you, to shake hands with Mademoiselle Paula [6] and with my dear little wife [7]. I know that this letter will arrive in New York when you are no longer there. However, I hope that it will be forwarded to you. Is Madame Margulis [8] coming with you? I beg you, dear Madame, thank your daughters on my behalf for that touching proof that they remember me kindly, give my regards to your husband, and believe in the sincere and warm affection of your devoted friend,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Marie Reno had sent Tchaikovsky a letter to congratulate him on his 52nd birthday. Six letters from Marie Reno to the composer have survived in the archives at Klin, but only one was published in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 99, and that is from the previous year (date: New York, 28 June 1891 [N.S.]. It is possible that the letter to which Tchaikovsky is replying here is among the other five letters in the archives. Tchaikovsky had spent his previous birthday in New York, during his American tour, and Marie Reno had sent him "a mass of flowers" in the morning, but that had been to wish him good luck for the evening's concert in the Music Hall when he conducted his Suite No. 3, as she was as yet probably unaware that it was his birthday. At any rate Tchaikovsky had not celebrated it in any way. See the entry in his diary for 25 April/7 May 1891 in Elkhonon Yoffe, Tchaikovsky in America. The composer's visit in 1891 (1986), p. 92–93.
  2. Tchaikovsky had stayed in Moscow from 6/18 April to 29 April/11 May, so as to help out Ippolit Pryanishnikov's private opera company by conducting three of their productions: Gounod's Faust, Anton Rubinstein's The Demon, and his own Yevgeny Onegin.
  3. The composer had just moved into a new two-storey house at Klin, and this would be his main residence until his death. The premises were later converted into the Tchaikovsky House-Museum.
  4. In October 1891, Adolph Brodsky had taken up the post of concertmaster of the New York Symphony Society Orchestra, while his younger colleague, Yuly Konyus (known outside Russia as Jules Conus) was appointed assistant concertmaster.
  5. Tchaikovsky was holding negotiations with Albert Gutmann, chairman of the organizing committee for "The International Exhibition for Music and Drama" which was to take place in Vienna later that summer, and for which the organizers wanted the Russian composer to conduct a concert of his works. Tchaikovsky's letter accepting the committee's offer has survived (see Letter 4749a), but when he arrived in Vienna on 6/18 September 1892 and conducted the first rehearsal three days later, he was so dissatisfied with the venue that he cancelled the concert.
  6. The Renos' middle daughter, Paula Maud (1868–1909), known after her marriage in 1895 as Paula Reno Hicks.
  7. "My dear little wife" is a jesting allusion to Marie Reno's youngest daughter, Alice (b. 1871), who had sat next to Tchaikovsky in the carriage that picked him up on his arrival at New York harbour on 14/26 April 1891, and whom some journalists had therefore taken to be the composer's wife. See the entry in Tchaikovsky's diary for 23 April/5 May 1891, in which he records how this "story" had been repeated by several newspapers, e.g. in Tchaikovsky in America. The composer's visit in 1891 (1986), p. 82. This misunderstanding became a running joke in the letters subsequently exchanged between Tchaikovsky and Marie Reno, the former invariably referring to Alice as his "dear little wife" and the latter addressing the composer as "my dear son-in-law".
  8. Madame Margulis was the eldest daughter of Marie Reno: Anna (1865–1929), who was married to Leon Margulis, the secretary of her father, Morris Reno. Four letters from Leon Margulis to Tchaikovsky have survived in the archives at Klin, two of which have been published in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 92–93.