London is the capital city of England and of the United Kingdom.

During Tchaikovsky's lifetime it was the most populated city in the world, and the centre of the British Empire.

London formed part of his itinerary on his very first journey outside Russia (1861), and also on his last ever foreign tour (1893).

Tchaikovsky in London

Tchaikovsky visited London on five occasions:

From Until Notes
by 27 July/8 August 1861 2/14 August 1861 As part of his first journey outside Russia, Tchaikovsky was acting as interpreter and secretary to his father's friend, Vasily Pisarev. "We have put up at a rather modest hotel and have spent whole days looking round the city. Just now I went on an excursion to Westminster Abbey and to the Parliament. Yesterday and the day before, we were at the Crystal Palace. The building really is magnificent, but inside it is somehow rather too motley. We were also in the Thames Tunnel, where it was so stifling that I almost began to feel sick. On the whole, I could have a pleasant time here were it not for the fact that I am tormented by not having any news of you", he wrote to his father. "London is a very interesting city, but it makes a rather gloomy impression on one's soul. The sun is never to be seen, and it is constantly raining. The food here is extremely to my liking. The dishes are simple, even coarse, but filling and tasty" [1].
8/20 March 1888 12/24 March 1888 To rehearse and conduct his Serenade for String Orchestra, and Theme and Variations from his Suite No. 3 at the St. James's Hall (10/22 March). "I conducted well. The Serenade was a huge success; the suite less so" [2]. He again found that "London is a miserable and depressing city" [3].
29 March/10 April 1889 31 March/12 April 1889 To rehearse and conduct another concert at the St. James's Hall (30 March/11 April), this time including the Piano Concerto No. 1 (soloist Vasily Sapelnikov) and Suite No. 1.
17/29 May 1893 31 May/12 June 1893 To rehearse and conduct his Symphony No. 4 at a Philharmonic Society concert (20 May/1 June). "The unanimous opinion was that the concert went down brilliantly and was a real triumph, such that Saint-Saëns, who appeared after me, suffered as a result of my remarkable success" [4].
1/13 June 1893 2/14 June 1893 After receiving his honorary doctorate from Cambridge University, Tchaikovsky spent one more night in London before heading for Paris.


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Notes and References

  1. Letter 58 to Ilya Tchaikovsky, 29 July/10 August 1861.
  2. Diary entry for 10/22 March 1888.
  3. Letter 3523 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 12/24 March 1888.
  4. Letter 4940 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 22 May/3 June 1893.