Letter 493

Date 7/19 September 1876
Addressed to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
Where written Moscow
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 640, оп. 1, No. 1015, л. 6–7)
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 499–500 (abridged)
Советская музыка. 3-и сборник статей (1945), p. 130–131
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том VI (1961), p. 67–68

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Anna-Maria Leonard
Москва
7 сентября 1876

Милейший и добрейший Николай Андреевич!

Собирался ответить Вам длинным и обстоятельным письмом, но у меня набралось так много корреспонденции, что боюсь задержать Вас и отвечаю вкратце!

1) Можете делать с «Утушкой» все, что Вам угодно, нимало не стесняясь моей гармонизацией, ставя или не ставя моё имя, хотя последнее было бы очень для меня лестно.

2) Песня эта появилась у меня таким образом: Островский (довольно хорошо знающий русские песни) сам записал её и передал на бумажке, которую я тщетно искал вчера в столе. Это было давно, кажется, в 1866 году. Помню, что сущности я не изменил, но только однатонизировал её, ибо очень хорошо вспоминаю, что она была у него украшена диэзом вводного тона. Откуда же записал «Утушку» сам Островский—не знаю. Полагаю, что он помнил её с детства.

3) Как Вы можете серьёзно спрашивать, не неприятно ли мне будет, что Вы сохраните мою гармонизацию? Само собою разумеется, что я буду гордиться своим участием в Вашем сборнике.

4) В «Снегурочке» у меня следующие народные песни. 1) Мотив пляски птиц взят из сборника Прокунина (часть I, стр. 35). 2) Хор провожания масленицы у него же (часть I, стр. 19). 3) Теноровое соло в этом же провожании тоже у Прокунина (часть I, стр. 8). 4) Allegro из первой песни Леля (a-moll) оттуда же (часть I, стр. 26). 5) Вторая песнь Леля оттуда же (часть 1, стр. 4). 6) Песнь Брусилы оттуда же (часть I, стр. 25). Все эти 6 песен, как Вы увидите, мною несколько изменены. Обратите вообще внимание на сборник Прокунина: он едва ли не богаче всех по выбору. Тема хора слепых гусляров заимствована из сборника Вильбуа, но только самое начало: остальное все моё. Эта песнь есть и в моем сборнике. Если вздумаете поместить песню (она есть в моем 4 ручн[ом] сборнике), из которой я сделал Andante 1-го квартета

0493 ex1.jpg

и т. д., то знайте, что я её записал сам в Киевск[ой] губ[ернии] от плотника, уроженца Калужской губ[ернии].

Я не писал Вам в прошлом году об «Антаре» единственно вследствие лени. Хотелось написать подробно, откладывал, откладывал и наконец провинился перед Вами. «Антар») произведение безусловно великолепное и во многих отношениях образцовое. До свидания, милый друг. Кланяюсь Над[ежде] Ник[олаевне].

П. Чайковский

Moscow
7 September 1876

Most dear and most kind Nikolay Andreyevich!

I was planning to reply to you with a long and detailed letter [1], but I have accumulated so much correspondence that I am fearful of delaying you and so am answering briefly!

1) You can do whatever you like with "A Duckling" and not worry about my harmonisation, either including or not including my name, although including it would be very flattering for me [2].

2) The way I came to have this song is as follows: Ostrovsky (who knows Russian songs rather well) noted it down himself and gave it to me on a piece of paper which I looked for in vain yesterday in my desk. It was a long time ago, in 1866, I think. I remember that I did not change the essence, but merely simplified the tonality, because I recall very well that in his version it had a sharp leading note. Where Ostrovsky himself noted down "A Duckling", I don't know. I expect that he remembered it from his childhood.

3) How can you seriously ask if it would be disagreeable to me if you keep my harmonisation? It goes without saying that I will be proud of my participation in your collection.

4) I have the following folksongs in "The Snow Maiden". 1) The theme of the dance of the birds, is taken from Prokunin's collection (part 1, page 35)[3]. 2) The Chorus of Farewell to Winter, also from the same (part 1, page 19 [4]). 3) The tenor solo in that farewell is also Prokunin's (part 1, page 8) [5]. 4) the Allegro from Lel's First Song (A minor)[6] is also from there (part 1, page 26). 5) Lel's Second Song [7] is also from there (part 1, page 4). 6) Brusila's Song is also from there (part 1, page 25) [8]. As you will see, I have somewhat altered all 6 songs. In general, do take a look at Prokunin's collection: it must be the richest of all in terms of choice. The theme of the Chorus of Blind Gusli Players is taken from Villebois's collection, but only the very beginning: the rest is all mine [9]. That song is in my collection. If you take it into your head to include the song (it is in my collection for 4 hands), from which I made the Andante of my 1st quartet [10]

0493 ex1.jpg

etc., then you should know that I noted it down myself in Kiev province, from a carpenter who was a native of Kaluga province.

I did not write to you last year about "Antar" purely as a consequence of my laziness. I wanted to write in detail, put it off and put it off, and finally am at fault before you. "Antar" is without doubt a magnificent and in many respects model work [11]. Until we meet, dear friend. Regards to Nadezhda Nikolayevna.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky was replying to an undated letter from Rimsky-Korsakov, asking if he could use the folksong 'A Duckling in the Meadow' (Ах, утушка луговая) — No. 18 of Tchaikovsky's Fifty Russian Folksongs for piano 4 hands (1868-69) — in his own forthcoming edition of Russian folksongs.
  2. Rimsky-Korsakov did include "A Duckling in the Meadow" as No. 89 in his collection of 100 Russian Folksongs (100 русских народных песен), Op. 24, with a note that the harmonisation was Tchaikovsky's.
  3. The opening of the Dances and Chorus of Birds (Prologue, No. 1) from Tchaikovsky's incidental music to Aleksandr Ostrovsky's play The Snow Maiden employs the folksong 'The Grey Eagle Flew up to the Mountains' (Вот сизый орел по гораи леталь); this appears as No. 31 in Vasily Prokunin's collection of 65 Russian Folksongs, which Tchaikovsky had edited in 1872 and 1873.
  4. The Chorus of Farewell to Winter (Prologue, No. 4) uses the folksong 'Long Time Said' (Давно сказано), which appeared on page 21 (not page 19) as No. 19 in Prokunin's collection.
  5. The folksong 'At Prince Volkhonsky's' (У кназя Волхонского) was No. 6 in Prokunin's collection.
  6. The numbering of Lel's songs was changed at the time of publication of the full score in 1895, and the one in A minor referred to here was published as Lel's Second Song (Act I, No. 7). The folksong 'By the Gates' (У ворот, ворот) was No. 23 in Prokunin's collection.
  7. Similarly, this was published as the first of the two versions of Lel's Third Song (Act III, No. 14a), which uses 'I Was Strolling Along the Riverbank' (Я по бережку прохаживла), No. 2 in Prokunin's collection.
  8. Brusila's Song (Act III, No. 15) uses the folk-tune 'Where Have You Been?' (Где ж ты была?), No. 25 in Prokunin's collection.
  9. The Chorus of Blind Gusli-Players (Act II, No. 9) uses the folk-tune 'It Isn't Drink That's Muddling My Head' (Не хмель мою головушку клонит), which Tchaikovsky had previously arranged as No. 14 of his own Fifty Russian Folksongs. On 30 December/11 January 1869 Tchaikovsky wrote to Mily Balakirev on 30 December 1868/11 January 1869: "Jurgenson asked me to make a four hand arrangement of 50 Russian songs, 25 of which I have already done; they are drawn from Villebois' collection. It goes without saying that I discarded Villebois' harmonisations and did them myself, and furthermore, I decided here and there to rewrite the melodies to make them more in keeping with the character of folksongs" (Letter 126). This song appears as No. 29 in book 1 of Konstantin Villebois edition of Russian Folk Songs (Русские народные песни) (Saint Petersburg, 1860).
  10. The main theme of the quartet's second movement (Andante cantabile), comes from an old Russian song, well-known during the 1870s, with the words "Vanya sat on the divan, smoking his tobacco pipe" («Сидел Ваня на диване, курил трубку с табаком»), which Tchaikovsky adapted as No. 47 in his collection of Fifty Russian Folksongs.
  11. Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No. 2 in B minor, known as Antar had been written in 1868 and revised in 1875, in which form it was premiered at the tenth Russian Musical Society concert in Moscow on 12/24 March 1876, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. The work was further revised in 1897 and 1903, when the author changed its designation from "symphony" to "symphonic suite".