Letter 966

Date 13/25 November 1878
Addressed to Modest Tchaikovsky
Where written Kamenka
Language Russian
Autograph Location Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve (a3, No. 1512)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 457–458
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 179–180 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том VII (1962), p. 457–458
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 176–177 (English translation; abridged)

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Henry Zajaczkowski
13 ноября

Коварный Модя! Неужели ты не мог собраться написать мне в Каменку? Я ведь тебе уже второе письмо пишу. Завтра я еду за границу. Я получил сегодня письмо от Н[адежды] Ф[иларетовны]. Она предлагает мне две квартиры: одну в городе, другую за городом на Viale dei Colli. Я выбрал последнюю. Таким образом я заранее могу тебе дать мой адрес, который попрошу передать и Толе. Italie, Florence, Restaurant Bonciani, M[onsieur] P. Tchaikovsky.

Всю проведённую здесь добрую неделю (т. е. 1½ недели) я могу назвать сладко промелькнувшим сном. Я чувствовал себя здесь удивительно хорошо. На душе такой мир, какого я давно не испытывал. Одна мысль только мне мешает: это та, что ты и Толя завидуете мне. О противные, завистливые, злые люди! Вдохновение меня осенило здесь, и сюита уже вся вчерне готова. Но меня беспокоит, что рукопись первых трёх частей я оставил в Петербурге и что она пропадёт. Здесь я написал две последние части. Вся эта коротенькая и (если не ошибаюсь) хорошенькая сюита будет состоять из пяти частей:

1) Introduzione e fuga.
:2) Scherzo.
3) Andante melanconico.
4) Марш лилипутов.
5) Пляска великанов.

Во Флоренции, если рукопись не пропала, я примусь за оркестровку. А затем начну помышлять об опере, и, кажется, я остановился окончательно на Иоанне д'Арк. Потрудись сказать Толе, чтоб рукопись, если она найдена, была Акимом зашита в клеёнку (или клиенку) и полотно и чтобы он тотчас же распорядился о присылке её во Флоренцию (ещё раз пишу адрес для ясности: Viale dei Colli Restaurant Bonciani).

У меня целую неделю был понос, который теперь окончательно прошёл, и здоровье в цветущем состоянии. Я очень рад, что моя квартира будет на Viale dei Colli, а не в городе. Город слишком живо напоминал бы мне тебя. Я еду за границу без восторга, но и без грусти. Мне очень приятно, что Саша поспешила своим выездом. Меня не будет тяготить мысль, что я оставил Каменку, где мне было так хорошо.

Вчера была охота в большом лесу. Я очень устал, а толку никакого. Было 30 стрелков, а убито всего два зайца. Из Вены я напишу Толе.

Алёша ведёт себя превосходно. Вообще мне решительно не на что жаловаться, и в настоящее время я смело могу назвать себя счастливейшим человеком. Иногда я, как Собакевич, боюсь, что это не к добру. Расцелуй от меня Колю. Кланяйся Алине Ивановне. Тебя и Толю обнимаю.

Твой П. Чайковский

13 November

You scoundrel, Modya! Surely you could've summoned up the effort and sent a letter to me here at Kamenka? As you can see, I'm already writing you my second letter. Tomorrow I am going abroad. I received a letter today from Nadezhda Filaretovna. She offers me two apartments: one in town, the other on the outskirts on the Viale dei Colli [1]. I've chosen the latter. Thus, I can give you my address in advance, and please pass it on also to Tolya. Italie, Florence, Restaurant Bonciani, Monsieur P. Tchaikovsky [2].

I can describe all of my stay here, a good week (i.e. 1½ weeks), as a sweetly fleeting dream. I've felt quite wonderful here. Such peace has been in my soul as I have not felt for a long while. Just one thought bothers me: that you and Tolya envy me. Oh, wanton, envious, wicked people! Inspiration has come over me here and the suite [3] is already completely sketched [4]. But it worries me that I left the manuscript of the first three movements in Petersburg and that it will be lost. I've composed here the final two movements. The whole of this brief and (if I'm not mistaken) attractive suite will comprise five movements:

1) Introduction and fugue.
2) Scherzo.
3) Andante melanconico [5].
4) March of the Lilliputians.
5) Dance of the Giants.

Once in Florence, provided the manuscript hasn't been lost, I shall set about the orchestration [6]. And then I'll begin to think about an opera and, it seems, I've settled finally on Joan of Arc [7]. Kindly tell Tolya that should the manuscript turn up, Akim [8] is to sew it up in oil-cloth (or oil-cloth) [9] and linen and forthwith see that it is sent to Florence (I'll write the address again for clarity: Viale dei Colli Restaurant Bonciani).

All week I had diarrhoea, which has now finally cleared up, and my health is rosy once more. I'm very glad that my apartment will be on the Viale dei Colli, and not in town. The town would too vividly remind me of you [10]. I shall go abroad without any joy, but also without any sadness. I'm very pleased that Sasha is pressing on with her departure. The thought will not weigh on me that I have left Kamenka where things were so good for me.

Yesterday there was a hunt in the big forest. I was very tired, but didn't gain a thing. There were 30 shooters and, in total, two hares were killed. Out of a sense of guilt I shall write to Tolya.

Alyosha carries out his duties superbly. Altogether, I'm inclined not to make any complaints about a single thing, and at the present time I may venture to call myself a happy man. Sometimes, like Sobakevich [11], I fear it is not all to the good. Pass on my kisses to Kolya. Convey my greetings to Alina Ivanovna. I embrace you and Tolya.

Yours, P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The 'Avenue of The Hills' in Arcetri on the southern outskirts of Florence.
  2. The composer employs the internationally useful French spelling of address and personal formal title as a Russian about to travel abroad.
  3. Tchaikovsky was in what would be the long-drawn and convoluted process of composition of his Suite No. 1 in D minor, Op. 43.
  4. When a composition has been 'sketched', all its essential material has been put on the page by the composer; in this form it is mostly or even entirely playable on the piano.
  5. The Italian adjective 'melancholy', which Tchaikovsky seems to have meant, is in fact: 'malinconico'.
  6. The task of putting the music of the 'sketch' (and any elaborations) into its orchestral setting - i.e. its finalised form, which may involve extensive labour - is what is meant by 'orchestration' here.
  7. The first stirrings of this opera during his present stay at his sister's home are made clearer when, just over a week later in Florence, Tchaikovsky informs Nadezhda von Meck: "The thought of writing an opera on this subject came to me in Kamenka when looking through [texts of] Zhukovsky, by whom there is a translation of Schiller's "The Maid of Orleans"" (see Letter 973, 21 November/3 December 1878). The books available at the Kamenka estate, by fortunate circumstance, contained this vital volume. It was the spark that re-lit the composer's creativity in the operatic sphere at a time of great personal respite and tranquillity following the fiasco of his collapsed marriage.
  8. The hapless Akim, Anatoly's servant, was not esteemed by Tchaikovsky as regards general levels of competence, and some of the pedantic nature of these directions as to preparing and posting the package might be sardonically aimed at him.
  9. Tchaikovsky appears to have been unsure (but see also note 8, above) of how to spell the Russian word for 'oil-cloth'. Nevertheless, his first rendering of it, 'клеенка', as it would appear in the nominative, is the correct spelling; the redrafted version that he adds in brackets immediately afterwards is superfluous.
  10. The nostalgia that Tchaikovsky feared relates to his visit to Florence earlier in the year in the company of Modest and Modest's pupil, Kolya Konradi. They had arrived in the city in February, for a two-week stay. Sights of cultural and historical interest were visited, including the Uffizi Gallery.
  11. Tchaikovsky refers to a character in Gogol's great satirical novel Dead Souls. Sobakevich, whose name literally means 'son of a dog', habitually sees only what is worst in people.