A photograph of Tchaikovsky in 1877
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-93)

The Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), who as professor of music at Cambridge University initiated the process by which Tchaikovsky was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the university in the summer of 1893, noted in his memoirs:

"Tchaikovsky reminded me, in more ways than one, of his countryman Tourgéniew, whom I once met at Madame Viardot's. He had none of the Northern roughness, was as polished as a Frenchman in his manner, and had something of the Italian in his temperament... For all the belief which he had in himself, he was to all appearances the acme of modesty" [1]

Stanford's powers of observation had not failed him in this case, since, apart from the French ancestry which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) actually did have on his mother's side—and to some extent French upbringing as well, thanks to the Tchaikovsky children's beloved governess, Fanny Dürbach—there was unquestionably a certain affinity between the composer and Turgenev, more than twenty years his senior. Despite long periods of residence abroad, both artists were filled with a strong affection for Russia, especially her countryside, without this ever impairing their grateful openness to all the good things that Western Europe had given, and could still give, to Russia—in contrast to some of their fellow-countrymen who adopted a more critical stance towards the West. They both strove towards an ideal of spiritually elevating beauty in their works, despite the doubts and scepticism by which they were sometimes beset, and they both also showed a similar spirit of modesty and generosity in helping others. Their works have, moreover, often been compared in terms of the lyrical atmosphere which both artists were so good at evoking. As Aleksandra Sholp has noted [2], it is a significant coincidence that Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin (or "lyrical scenes", as the composer himself preferred to call it) was being prepared for the stage in Moscow during the winter of 1878/79 at the same time as a new production of Turgenev's wistful 'comedy' A Month in the Country (1850) was running in Saint Petersburg, with Maria Savina in the role of Verochka, a young girl who shows a spiritedness similar to that of Pushkin's Tatyana.

A photograph of the Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
Sir Charles Villiers
Stanford (1852-1924)

Turgenev had a very high opinion of Tchaikovsky's talent. His good friend the poet Yakov Polonsky (1819-98)—who was also a great enthusiast of the latter's music and who had, moreover, adapted Gogol's story Christmas Night into the libretto used by Tchaikovsky for his operaVakula the Smith (1874)—wrote in his very interesting recollections of Turgenev's last visit to Russia in the summer of 1881:

"The conversation turned on music. Turgenev argued that music in Russia was still at the same stage as literature before Pushkin—that is, it had not yet become a real need for us, as vital, so to speak, as our daily bread. He said that of the older generation of Russian composers he thought highly of Glinka, and that of the new generation he preferred Tchaikovsky to all others" [3]
Tchaikovsky, Honorary Doctor of Music, Cambridge 1893
Tchaikovsky, Honorary Doctor of Music
of the University of Cambridge, 1893

This is confirmed by what Turgenev himself argued in a letter of 1872 to Vladimir Stasov, the champion of the "Mighty Handful" and his perennial antagonist in questions of art:

"Of all the 'young' Russian composers only two have positive talent: Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov..." [4]

While living in France during the 1870s, and, moreover, in the same household as Pauline Viardot, who was in touch with leading musicians from all over Europe, Turgenev was able to keep track, to his great satisfaction, of the ever growing fame of Tchaikovsky in the music capitals of Europe. Even in England, which, like Heine before him, Turgenev considered to be an un-musical country [5], Tchaikovsky's name was beginning to become known in those years—especially after the 1876 performance of his majestic Piano Concerto No. 1 in London by the German-born British pianist Edward Dannreuther (1844-1905). Turgenev was able to verify this for himself during his trip to England in the autumn of 1878, where, apart from shooting partridges in Cambridgeshire, he also found the time to visit the two ancient English universities of Oxford and Cambridge. At the latter he had a conversation about Tchaikovsky with the university's professor of music, George Macfarren (1813-87), the gist of which he would relay shortly afterwards to Tolstoi in a letter from Paris, where a number of Tchaikovsky's works had been performed that summer at the Palais du Trocadéro as part of the World Exhibition of 1878:

"Tchaikovsky's name has risen greatly in general estimation here after the Russian Concerts at the Trocadéro. In Germany, it has for a long time already been the object if not of esteem, then at least of attention. In Cambridge one Englishman, a professor of music, told me in dead earnest that Tchaikovsky was the most remarkable musical personality of our times. I stood there listening open-mouthed!" [6]

Now, Stasov in his memoirs would insinuate that Turgenev's "hostile disdain" for the music of the "Mighty Handful"—which, according to him, lasted until Turgenev's last days, but which was in fact dispelled by his memorable meeting with Musorgsky in June 1874—could be attributed partly to the fact that the composers of the kuchka lacked "European-wide accreditation" at the time [7]. Should we, then, conclude that Turgenev praised Tchaikovsky's music merely because the latter had already acquired a certain fame outside Russia and was "accredited" by such authorities as Hans von Bülow (1830-94), the dedicatee[8] and first performer of the Piano Concerto No. 1?

The answer to this question must undoubtedly be no: Turgenev really did appreciate Tchaikovsky's music on the strength of the feelings which it awakened in him, and not just because famous European musicians had started showing an interest in it as well. At the time of that letter to Stasov in 1872, in which he praised both Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, he hadn't even heard anything about the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture (1869; first version), that is about that work of Tchaikovsky's which, after the publication of its score in Berlin in May 1871 on the initiative of Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-81), had laid the foundations for the Russian composer's growing popularity in Germany. The first work by Tchaikovsky which Turgenev got to hear was, in fact, something more modest than this famous overture, but the emotional effect which it had on Turgenev was no less strong for that. The piece in question was the poignant song "None but the lonely heart" Listen to Mignon's song!, and when Turgenev heard it in March 1871 (see below) his reaction was probably similar to that which Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice had always had on him, as he described it in a letter to Stasov the following year, in which he first refuted the charge that in judging works of art he relied slavishly on the verdicts pronounced by "European authorities":

"Why do you suppose that I, who am not a musician nor a painter, and, moreover, bearing in mind that I am already an old person who cannot stand hypocrisy any longer and who goes only by his own impressions—why do you suppose that I am infected with fetishism and bend down before European authorities? To hell with them all! I go into raptures over Gluck's recitatives and arias not because authorities praise them, but because as soon as I hear the first strains of these I feel tears welling up in my eyes" [9]
The distinguished contralto of the Mariinsky Theatre, Elizaveta Lavrovskaya, in an 1879 painting by Ivan Kramskoi
The contralto Elizaveta Lavrovskaya (1845-1919)
in a painting of 1879 by Ivan Kramskoi.
In May 1877 she gave Tchaikovsky the idea of
using Pushkin's Eugene Onegin as the subject
for a new opera.

As far as we can tell, Tchaikovsky's romance "None but the lonely heart" Listen to Mignon's song! (1869)—a setting of Mignon's song "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt" from Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (1796), in a fine translation by the Russian poet Lev Mei (1822-62)—was the first work by the young composer that Turgenev had the opportunity to hear, namely at a concert of Tchaikovsky's works which took place in Moscow on 16/28 March 1871. From contemporary accounts, it is known that Turgenev arrived late and missed the first half of the concert, in which Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1 was premièred. (The famous Andante cantabile from this quartet, whose theme is based on a Ukrainian folk-song, would move Tolstoi to tears five years later) [10]. However, despite having missed the quartet, Turgenev left the concert venue with the unforgettable impression produced on him during the second half by the contralto Elizaveta Lavrovskaya's performance of "None but the lonely heart" Listen to Mignon's song!. For Turgenev, who ever since his youth had been drawn to such heroines of Goethe's as Gretchen in Faust and Klärchen in Egmont, this song must have been particularly moving. The anguish and longing of the gypsy girl Mignon, suffering from unrequited love for her protector Wilhelm, are indeed conveyed very effectively by Tchaikovsky's music [11].

A statue by the French sculptor Eugène-Antoine Aizelin representing Goethe's Mignon
Mignon (1881). A statue by
Eugène-Antoine Aizelin (1821-1902)

The presence of such a celebrity as Turgenev in the audience could not go by unnoticed, and his enthusiastic praise for Tchaikovsky's music was duly passed on to the composer [12]. However, already on this occasion the pattern was set for what would repeat itself time and time again: Tchaikovsky went to the greatest lengths to avoid making Turgenev's personal acquaintance. In this respect it is worth citing the following anecdote recalled by a contemporary of Tchaikovsky's, the year of which is not indicated, but which probably occurred several years after that concert in 1871: Tchaikovsky once met a fellow musician on the Saint Petersburg—Moscow express train who told him that Turgenev was travelling in a nearby compartment on the same train and was very keen to meet him. The composer then went to hide in the third class carriage and did not get off in Moscow until all the other passengers had left the train. When asked later why he had done this and whether he was not an admirer of Turgenev's works, Tchaikovsky replied: "I love him terribly, I bow before him, but what should I say to him? I should have been very awkward—and so I ran away" [13]. In a letter to his benefactress Nadezhda von Meck (1831-94) in March 1879 Tchaikovsky would explain the reasons for his "unsociability":

"All my life I have suffered from all kinds of formal relations with people. By nature I am an unsociable person. Every new acquaintance, every new meeting with someone whom I don't know has for me always been the source of tremendous spiritual anguish [...] Not once in my life have I ever taken a step to make the acquaintance of this or that interesting personality. And whenever such an acquaintance did take place because it couldn't be avoided, I invariably felt just disillusioned, saddened and worn out afterwards" [14]

Nevertheless, even though Tchaikovsky shunned his acquaintance, this did not diminish the admiration which Turgenev felt for the young composer's talent. After his return to London in April 1871—during the Franco-Prussian War Pauline Viardot and her family had moved to the British capital—he immediately arranged for a copy of the album of Tchaikovsky's songs (Op. 6) which included "None but the lonely heart" Listen to Mignon's song! to be sent to him from Russia. In his reply to the Russian friend who had sent him the songs, Turgenev wrote:

"Yesterday Tchaikovsky's songs arrived, and Madame Viardot immediately played them through: the last three were the ones she liked most, and especially the very last one—to a poem by Goethe (and not by Heine, as it is wrongly indicated in the text): "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt" in Mei's translation. Madame Viardot intends to perform this song at one of her Saturday musical matinées, and she has now asked me to thank Mr Tchaikovsky. All her own songs will be dispatched to him shortly" [15]
The actress and singer Evlaliya Kadmina as Bertha in Meyerbeer's opera «Le Prophète», Kharkov, 1880
Evlaliya Kadmina (1853-81) as Bertha
in Meyerbeer's Le Prophète, 1880

The impression which this particular song of Tchaikovsky's made on Turgenev proved to be indelible. Thus, in his last published story, Klara Milich (1883; also known by its original title After Death)—which he was prompted to write by what he had heard of the tragic fate of the singer and actress Evlaliya Kadmina (1853-81), who committed suicide on the stage during a performance because she had been cruelly deceived by the man she loved [16]Turgenev would have his troubled heroine Klara sing precisely "None but the lonely heart" Listen to Mignon's song! during the soirée at which Aratov, who at first suspects nothing of her love for him, is also present. Both this song and Tatyana's letter from Eugene Onegin (not the aria from Tchaikovsky's opera: "May I perish; but first" Listen to Tatyana's Letter Scene from the opera!, just Pushkin's verses by themselves), which Klara also recites on that occasion, serve as symbols of tragically unrequited love, or rather, of love which is not reciprocated until it is too late.

The next significant work by Tchaikovsky which Turgenev became acquainted with was the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture (in the revised version of 1870), whose unique emotional intensity would very soon be appreciated by musicians and audiences in Russia and the West alike [17]. The idea for this work had been suggested to Tchaikovsky by Balakirev, and it is constructed along the lines of a sonata, albeit with three, rather than two, themes: firstly, the solemn intonation of Friar Lawrence, then the tumultuous theme of the street-fighting between Montagues and Capulets, and, finally, the beautiful melody which conveys Romeo and Juliet's love. Unfortunately, since Turgenev spent most of his time outside Russia, he was not able to hear the overture in a concert performance until 1880, and until then he was familiar only with a piano arrangement of it. His friend, the poet Polonsky, was more fortunate. After hearing the revised version of the overture at its first performance in Saint Petersburg on 5/17 February 1872, he wrote enthusiastically to Turgenev:

"Have you heard anything about Tchaikovsky (the Moscow composer)? I've heard his overture Julia and Romeo [sic] Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture—how wonderful it is! What depth and beauty! I'll tell you this—Beethoven's music has never absorbed me as much as this overture. So either I haven't yet grown to appreciate Beethoven properly, or he is quite truly no match for Tchaikovsky!" [18]

Now, if someone like Stasov, say, had lavished such praise on the work of any other Russian composer, Turgenev would immediately have dismissed this comparison with Beethoven to the latter's disadvantage as the result of patriotic self-delusion, even before having heard the work in question and judged it for himself. In this case, however, the composer thus praised was Tchaikovsky, and Turgenev was already familiar with some of his music and had liked it. That is why in his reply to Polonsky he did not challenge the comparison with Beethoven:

"Tchaikovsky I've seen in Moscow: I've also heard his music and have even corresponded with him, but I'm not personally acquainted with him. He seems to me a very nice person, and he has unquestionable talent—at any rate, a far more significant talent than all these Messrs Cui, Balakirev, and other nonentities, whom (just like the late Dargomyzhsky, too) certain people are trying to make out to be geniuses! The overture which you mention, I haven't heard, though" [19]

Turgenev would not in fact get to know the Romeo and Juliet Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture overture until the autumn of 1874, when he wrote to Aleksandr Toporov, his reliable agent for all kinds of errands in Saint Petersburg:

"Would you be so kind as to find out from A. Johansen's (the music-shop in front of Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt) if there is an arrangement for piano duet of Tchaikovsky's overture for «Romeo and Juliet» Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture—or for piano solo—and if one does exist, could you please send it to my address in Paris? (preferably for piano duet, if possible)" [20]

Having received the requested piano arrangement and heard Pauline Viardot play it through—together with one of her daughters, most likely—Turgenev then wrote back to Toporov:

"Thank you for sending Tchaikovsky's overture, which, nevertheless, has proved to be inferior to its reputation" [21]

A possible explanation for this unexpectedly harsh comment on such a remarkable piece is that a piano arrangement can never fully render the beauty and colour of an orchestral work, especially one written by a composer like Tchaikovsky with his flair for orchestration. 

The following year, Turgenev found out from Polonsky that the opera which Tchaikovsky had composed using a libretto of his—Vakula the Smith, an adaptation of Gogol's story Christmas Night—had recently been awarded, in October 1875, the first prize of 1,500 rubles in the competition announced by the Russian Musical Society to produce an opera based on that story. Turgenev replied to his friend from Paris: "I am glad for Tchaikovsky. If his opera is staged, will you get some money out of it as well?" [22] It seems that Turgenev acquired a copy of the piano-vocal score of Vakula shortly after its publication in Moscow in April 1876, as already during that summer, which he spent with the Viardots at their country retreat in Bougival, near Paris, Madame Viardot was playing through the opera [23].

Since the next time that Tchaikovsky is mentioned in Turgenev's correspondence is in connection with the latter's younger but ultimately more famous fellow-writer, Lev Tolstoi (1828-1910), it is worth saying something about Tchaikovsky's attitude to the author of War and Peace (1865-69). Tchaikovsky never made any secret about the fact that Tolstoi was his favourite writer. Thus, in a letter of 1889 he told his imperial patron, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915):

Tolstoi in Ivan Kramskoi's portrait of 1873
Lev Tolstoi (1828-1910) in Ivan Kramskoi's
portrait of 1873
"Tolstoi I have read and re-read a countless number of times, and I consider him to be the greatest of all writers in the world, dead and living" [24]

—and in this very same letter he explained his veneration for Tolstoi's works as arising partly from the fact that this great "reader of the human heart" was able to see through the motives of all human actions, and that, unlike other novelists, he never condemned any of his characters [25]. In spite of what he once said about his love for Turgenev (see above), while staying at one of Nadezhda von Meck's estates in the autumn of 1884, he confessed to her:

"I've been reading a huge number of books in your house, especially a lot of the old Russian writers, and I've noticed how in the same measure that my inclination for Tolstoi has become stronger, so I've cooled markedly towards Turgenev" [26]

Turgenev would not have been offended by this, since he considered himself to be a writer belonging merely to a "transitional period" in the development of Russian literature, and, despite his occasional critical remarks about Tolstoi's "excessive psychological analysis" and the "philosophizing" chapters in War and Peace, he was the first to recognize the younger writer's supremacy. Sharing his impressions of War and Peace with a friend in 1868, he observed:

"In this novel there are so many passages of first-rate beauty, there is so much life and truth and freshness, that it is impossible not to acknowledge that after the appearance of War and Peace, Tolstoi now occupies the first place amongst all our contemporary writers" [27]

During a conversation with a young journalist at the end of the 1870s, Turgenev went even further in his praise for Tolstoi, modestly downplaying his own merits:

"In Russia we have never before had such an artist, such a first-class talent as Tolstoi, and there is simply no one who could match him. For example, people consider me to be an artist, but what am I worth in comparison to him? In all of contemporary European literature he has no equal" [28]
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

However, the veneration which Tchaikovsky for his part professed for the author of War and Peace was not without its ups and downs. Shortly after that private concert at the Moscow Conservatory in December 1876, during which Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1 had moved him to tears, Tolstoi had insisted on having several longer conversations with the composer, and at one point he had started attacking Beethoven's music and effectively the whole European classical heritage. In a letter to his benefactress a few years later, Tchaikovsky would recall how embarrassing and painful it had been for him to have to hear such "stupid and offensive" things from Russia's greatest living writer [29]. (To do Tolstoi justice, it should be said that he liked some works by Beethoven very much, especially from his earlier period). Rather like Turgenev, who in the final years of his life was close to despair at the thought that Tolstoi might abandon his literary work for the sake of what he considered to be "mysticism", Tchaikovsky too would later express considerable dismay at the way that Tolstoi had set himself up as a kind of "priest" when he could teach and improve people infinitely more effectively through his novels [30]. Already at the time of their meeting in Moscow in December 1876, though, Tchaikovsky's patience was sorely tested not just by Tolstoi's attacks on Beethoven but also by the writer's attempt to encroach on his compositional work. For Tolstoi had sent him some folk-songs, possibly recorded from the peasants in the neighbourhood of Yasnaya Polyana, and insisted that he use them in his next composition. Tchaikovsky duly sent Tolstoi a courteous reply—though still pointing out that those songs had been transcribed in an inappropriate key—but it seems that in conversations with friends he was more outspoken about Tolstoi's 'meddling' in his work. Polonsky evidently passed on these remarks to Turgenev, for the latter wrote to the poet in January 1877:

"I think that Tchaikovsky is exaggerating with regard to L. Tolstoi, but one really cannot help feeling sorry about how someone so extraordinarily gifted insists on doing what he isn't supposed to do, almost as if he had entered into a wager!" [31]

It is likely that Turgenev and Tchaikovsky would have reacted quite similarly had they both lived to read Tolstoi's tractate What Is Art? (1898), where most of Beethoven's music is described as belonging to those false works of art which, like "luxurious gourmand's dishes", could appeal only to the corrupted tastes of the idle upper classes!

The great pianist and conductor Nikolai Rubinstein
Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-81)

The next works by Tchaikovsky which Turgenev managed to hear performed were some of those that were showcased in the "Russian Concerts" conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein in Paris as part of the World Exhibition of 1878, which lasted from May to November. (Tchaikovsky, incidentally, had declined to form part of the delegation of Russian musicians at the Exhibition). Moreover, in the autumn of that year Turgenev also found out that the piano-vocal score of Tchaikovsky's new opera, Eugene Onegin, had just been published in Russia. In November he therefore addressed the following request to the ever-reliable Toporov in Saint Petersburg:

"Please would you drop by at Gabler's, the new music-shop (next to Kazan Bridge, in the Olkhin House), and buy a copy of the piano score of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin and send it to me at once? The money which I left you should be enough, isn't it so? Oh yes, and if it is possible, could you also get hold of the two pieces for violin by Tchaikovsky which the violinist Barcewicz played at the Russian Concerts in the Trocadéro? The first is entitled Rêverie, the second is a valse. You would do me a considerable favour if you are able to get hold of these pieces. Tchaikovsky has had a great success here in Paris" [32]

The works referred to by Turgenev, which had been performed by the Polish violinist Stanisław Barcewicz (1858-1929), a recent graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, were the Valse-scherzo, Op. 34 and the beautiful Sérénade mélancolique, Op. 26 Listen to the Sérénade mélancolique for violin! (1875), whose atmosphere is described quite well by the wrong title which Turgenev gave to it: "Rêverie".

As for the piano-vocal score of Onegin, Turgenev was fortunate to receive a copy because the first edition was swept up very rapidly during the autumn and winter months of 1878/79—especially after the enthusiastic article with which the critic Herman Laroche had greeted the performance of some excerpts from the opera at a student concert in Moscow in December. Even Tolstoi, despite his increasing hostility towards the 'false' spectacle of opera—as is evident from the ironic description of an opera performance as seen through the eyes of Natasha Rostova in War and Peace—was interested by what he had heard about the rehearsals for Tchaikovsky's opera that were going on in Moscow. Thus, he wrote to Turgenev in Paris, asking if he knew anything about this new work. This is what Turgenev replied on 15/27 November 1878:

"We have received the piano-vocal score of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and Madame Viardot has started to go through this work during the evenings. The music is without question marvellous: the lyrical and tuneful moments are particularly good. But what a libretto! Can you imagine: Pushkin's verses describing the characters are put in the mouths of the characters themselves. For example, the lines about Lensky:
        "He sang of the faded flower of his life
When he was scarcely 18 years of age"
in the libretto is rendered as:
        "I sing of the faded flower of my life"
and so almost everywhere in the libretto" [33]

Turgenev's warm praise for the music of Onegin testifies to his great musical sensitivity—as well as to the skill of Pauline Viardot in rendering the opera's music on the piano! Turgenev immediately appreciated the lyrical nature of this opera which, as Galina Pribegina has put it, is "sustained on a single melodic breath" [34]: from the beautiful overture Listen to the overture to «Eugene Onegin», which presents the dreamy theme of Tatyana, to the incredibly dramatic final duet Listen to the final duet from «Eugene Onegin» between the repentant Onegin and Tatyana, in which for a few moments the music returns to the passionate key of the opening of the Letter Scene: "May I perish; but first..." Listen to Tatyana's Letter Scene from the opera!.

With regard to Turgenev's critical comments about the libretto—which was written after Pushkin's verse novel by Tchaikovsky himself with some help from his friend Konstantin Shilovsky (1849-93)—these would actually lead to a series of misunderstandings (see below). The première of Onegin at the Maly Theatre in Moscow on 17/29 March 1879—which had been deliberately entrusted by Tchaikovsky to students from the Conservatory—was not quite received with the enthusiasm which the composer's friends and colleagues, especially Laroche, Taneyev, and Nikolai Rubinstein (who conducted at the première), had expected. The only numbers which called forth general applause were the splendid bass aria of Prince Gremin: "At all ages we are susceptible to love", the touching couplets of Monsieur Triquet: "You are a rose, you are a rose, fair Tatyana!", and the peasants' chorus: "My swift legs hurt" Listen to the peasants' first chorus! (This wonderful chorus alone, which is written in the spirit of the Russian peasantry's protyazhnye, or drawn-out, songs, goes to show that Tchaikovsky loved the Russian people and their customs just as much as the less 'polished' Musorgsky!).

Tchaikovsky's brother Modest would attribute, in his biography of the composer, the relative coldness with which the other sections of the opera were received partly to the fact that the audience had never before seen "landowner's wives, nannies, provincial ladies, generals and gentlemen in tail-coats on stage, singing arias and duets" [35]; and partly to the liberties taken by Tchaikovsky with Pushkin's novel, especially in having Tatyana in the final scene swoon into Onegin's arms briefly until her husband appears at the door and orders him away (this stage direction was removed by Tchaikovsky in 1880). All in all, Modest concluded:

"Even before hearing the music itself, in the view of the overwhelming majority of the audience, of which opinion I. S. Turgenev was representative (in one of his letters), all these things put together seemed like an impudent audacity, and disposed people unfavourably towards the new work even before they had walked into the theatre. The word "sacrilege" was uttered in some parts of the auditorium. I remember how I heard it a number of times on that day" [36]

Modest, however, was exaggerating somewhat. For even if Tolstoi had shown or discussed with someone who later attended the première the above-cited letter containing Turgenev's critical remarks about the libretto, it must be stressed that Turgenev himself had never spoken of an act of "sacrilege" with regard to Pushkin. Since such alterations, as well as the insertion of some verses which were not in the original novel, were necessary for the composer to give musical expression to those parts of Pushkin's incredibly rich work that he wanted to single out, the fair-minded Turgenev—in spite of, or precisely because of, his veneration for the poet—would surely not have found anything reprehensible in this.

As far as Turgenev's critical remarks as such are concerned, it is interesting that the verse he quotes from one of Pushkin's stanzas describing Lensky does not, in fact, appear in the libretto at all. However, it is clear what Turgenev had in mind. For instance, Lensky's passionate arioso: "I love you, / I love you, Olga, / As only the crazy soul of a poet..." Listen to the scene in the garden and Lensky's arioso! is put into his lips straight from the narrator's slightly ironic description of him in the novel: "Ah, he loved, as those who have / Reached our years are no longer capable of loving; / As only the crazy soul of a poet / Can still love" (Ch. 2, XX). Similarly, the equally ardent phrase with which Tatyana begins her confession in the Letter Scene: "May I perish; but first" Listen to Tatyana's Letter Scene from the opera!—in this scene which for Tchaikovsky was the cornerstone of the whole opera—was taken from the somewhat ironic words addressed by Pushkin's poet-narrator to his heroine: "You will perish, my dear, / But first in radiant hope you will..." (Ch. 3, XV). Of course, this irony did not prevent Pushkin from feeling genuine admiration for his "muse" Tatyana, but in an opera such nuances of irony are out of place—especially in the case of an opera like Tchaikovsky's whose central figure the composer once described as follows:

Galina Vishnevskaya as Tatyana at her début in the Bolshoi Theatre in 1953
Galina Vishnevskaya as Tatyana at her
début in the Bolshoi Theatre, 1953
"Tatyana's is a maidenly soul full of pure feminine beauty, not yet touched by contact with the real world. Hers is a dreamy nature, in search of a vague ideal..." [37]

This description could also be applied to the heroines of many of Turgenev's works—for instance, to Natalya in Rudin (1856), Asya (in the eponymous story of 1858), or Elena in On the Eve (1860). Thus, we are told about Elena in the latter novel:

"She began to live a life of her own, but a lonely one. Her soul both flared up and died away while she was entirely on her own. She struggled like a bird in a cage, but there was no cage: no one constrained her, no one held her back, and yet she was straining to somehow break free and suffered. Sometimes she couldn't understand herself, and was even afraid of herself [...] Sometimes the thought occured to her that she wanted something which no one else in the whole of Russia could even imagine" (Ch. VI)

The prototype for all these heroines was clearly Pushkin's Tatyana, who in her letter to Onegin says so touchingly: "Imagine: I am alone here, / No one understands me..." (Ch. 3) Not for nothing would Turgenev observe in a letter in December 1882 to the author of a book on Pushkin: "I have always considered myself to be his pupil—and my greatest ambition as a writer is eventually to be recognised as a good pupil of his" [38]. Turgenev must therefore have been delighted that Tchaikovsky was able to draw the inspiration for such beautiful music from Pushkin's great novel. A creative adaptation of this kind was quite different to Dargomyzhsky's "experimental" opera The Stone Guest, whose libretto slavishly followed the text of Pushkin's play word for word, and which to Turgenev did indeed seem like "a sacrilege committed by a puny little musician against one of the greatest works of poetry!" [39]

The duel between Onegin and Lensky. A 1901 painting by Ilya Repin
The duel between Onegin and Lensky. A 1901 painting by Ilya Repin

If we now return to the question of the opera's libretto when held up against the original, it is worth noting that the verses invented and added by Tchaikovsky are not actually that bad at all. As an example we may cite the opening of Lensky's emotional recollection: "In your house!... In your house! / Where my childhood years passed like a golden dream!" Listen to Lensky's recollection and the end of Act 2! after he has challenged Onegin to a duel (in the novel this challenge is not delivered as dramatically, since Lensky sends his second to Onegin on the day after the ball!). On the other hand, in such important parts of the opera as the Letter Scene Listen to Tatyana's Letter Scene from the opera!, or Lensky's final aria: "Where, where, oh, where have you gone, / Precious days of my youth?" Listen to Lensky's aria!, almost all of the original verses from the corresponding stanzas in the novel were retained in their entirety. Nevertheless, it is true that Turgenev did continue to make jokes (though not malicious ones) about the libretto, as one can see from a letter sent to Tchaikovsky by his Moscow-based publisher Pyotr Jurgenson (1836-1904) in March 1879. Tchaikovsky was then staying in France to work on The Maid of Orleans, and Jurgenson was regularly informing him on the rehearsals for Onegin at the Conservatory. This is what Jurgenson wrote:

"It turns out that Turgenev is an ardent admirer of your music: he knows, and owns copies of, all of your works, all of them quite literally. He asked me about those that hadn't been published yet; whether the sonata was ready; and, lastly, whether, in view of his gout, I could send someone to his hotel with the Liturgy [i.e. the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, composed in 1878], your last songs, and your pieces for violin. He talked a lot about Onegin, praised the music enthusiastically, and laughed good-naturedly about the libretto, which he called a 'Chimborazo' " [40]

By comparing the libretto of Onegin to the Chimborazo mountain in Ecuador, Turgenev probably wanted to say that it was 'the height of absurdity'. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in this, given that in the first version of the libretto the restrained ending of Pushkin's novel—in which Onegin has no time to pronounce a single word after Tatyana has explained her decision to him and leaves the room—was turned into something much more melodramatic, with Tatyana falling briefly into Onegin's arms. Even to Turgenev this must have seemed like taking too much of a liberty with Pushkin's original intentions. Still, it must be emphasized again that Turgenev, who happened to be in Moscow at the time of the final rehearsals before the première of Onegin, certainly did not incite anyone against Tchaikovsky's opera by pointing to the libretto's flaws. On the contrary, he actively defended the opera from such envious former colleagues of Tchaikovsky's as Vladimir Kashperov [41].

The Conservatory student Maria Klimentova in the role of Tatyana at the opera's first performance in 1879
Maria Klimentova (1857-1946) as Tatyana at the
première of Eugene Onegin on 17/29 March 1879

In a remarkable letter which Turgenev wrote in Moscow on 2 March 1879 to Claudie, the second oldest daughter of Madame Viardot—a letter which, like the one describing his meeting with Musorgsky in June 1874, was first brought to light by Alexandre Zviguilsky in the 1970s—we find ample confirmation of how impressed Turgenev really was by Tchaikovsky's music in Eugene Onegin, even if the quality of the performers left something to be desired:

"Yesterday I was at the Conservatory, where Nikolai Rubinstein conducted a dress rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. I found the music enchanting: it is ardent, passionate, young, picturesque, and poetic. The orchestral accompaniment is particularly good and full of inspiration. But the roles were all sung by students, from which you can picture to yourself what the quality of the performance must have been like! [...] Nevertheless, Mlle Klimentova, who sang the role of the heroine, Tatyana, really does have a beautiful, albeit insufficiently trained, voice and a genuinely dramatic temperament—in able hands she may well become a notable artist yet. In short, I enjoyed myself very much"  [42]

Turgenev, however, left Moscow before the day of the opera's première at the Maly Theatre on 17/29 March 1879. If he had been present at the first performance, then, given the esteem in which he was held by his countrymen, Tchaikovsky's opera might perhaps have been received more warmly already then, and the composer might not have had to wait until the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre's production of 1884 to see Onegin become one of the most popular Russian operas in the repertoire!

When he next came to Russia, in February 1880, Turgenev readily spoke of his enthusiasm for Tchaikovsky's music in the course of a soirée hosted by Polonsky. According to a contemporary account of this soirée, when the conversation turned on music Turgenev observed:

"Among our present-day composers the most original of them all, in my view, is Tchaikovsky. His songs occupy the first place after Glinka's music. [...] In Paris, too, Tchaikovsky's music is very popular, it has become fashionable" [43]

It was also during this stay in Russia that another opportunity presented itself for Turgenev to hear some new works by Tchaikovsky, one of which, in particular, impressed him greatly. This is what he wrote to Pauline Viardot from Saint Petersburg on 20 March/1 April 1880:

"I was at the Grand Duchess Ekaterina's [...] Madame Leszetyckaja, with a voice which is still pleasant to hear, sang a couple of trifles, but she also sang a romance by Tchaikovsky which I hadn't heard before: it is an enchanting song, so passionate and splendid! I will send it to you" [44]

From another letter to Madame Viardot twelve days later, we find out which song Turgenev had in mind:

"I've already told you that the day before yesterday I was unable to attend the private performance of Tchaikovsky's Maid of Orleans at Mme Abaza's house. But, by the way, now that I've mentioned Tchaikovsky, I think that at home you have a booklet with six of his romances (op. 38), one of which is entitled Pimpinella. But that isn't the song I like most—no, the one that's my favourite has the title: «Средь шумного бала» Listen to the romance «Amid the noise of the ball»!Amid the noise of the ball" [45]

It is not surprising that such a heartfelt song as "Amid the noise of the ball" Listen to the romance «Amid the noise of the ball»! should have appealed to Turgenev so much, since its music and text—it is a setting of a poem by Aleksei Tolstoi (1817-75)—conveys that vague but hopeful state of feeling oneself to be in love which Turgenev so often evoked in his own works. On the whole, with regard to opportunities of hearing Tchaikovsky's music, Turgenev was very fortunate during this visit to Russia, since, in addition to the above-mentioned soirées, he attended a proper concert at Saint Petersburg's Peter and Paul Gymnasium on 25 March/6 April 1880, at which amateur and professional singers and musicians performed a number of works by Tchaikovsky, including two excerpts from Onegin (the Letter Scene Listen to Tatyana's Letter Scene from the opera! and Lensky's aria Listen to Lensky's aria!), the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture, the Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1, and also the Suite No. 1 (1879) with its famous lively Marche miniature. Although no comments by Turgenev on this particular concert have come to light so far, there can be no doubt that he was delighted by the growing popularity of Tchaikovsky's music, both in Russia and abroad.

As already mentioned, Tchaikovsky's "unsociability" meant that he never actually met Turgenev. Unlike so many of his countrymen, such as Sergei Taneyev for example, he never called on the writer when he was in Paris. In a letter which he sent to Nadezhda von Meck during his stay in the French capital in February-March 1879—shortly before his return to Russia for the première of Onegin—he explained why, despite her urging him to do so, he had never knocked on the door of the house on the Rue de Douai which the Viardot family shared with Turgenev, and which was one of the musical centres of Paris:

"Turgenev has on a number of occasions expressed a lot of sympathy for my music; Madame Viardot has performed my songs. It would indeed seem that I ought to visit them, and this would probably even be of benefit to me. But by now I have already come to resign myself to the fact that my unsociability would just spoil any successes that my music might have had, and that's why I see no need to go there [...] Besides, as far as making the acquaintance of famous people is concerned, experience has taught me the following truth: that the books they've written and the notes they've composed are much more interesting than they themselves" [46]

Still, it is very likely that Tchaikovsky would not have been disappointed, had he actually ever spoken to Turgenev. For they had similar views on a number of questions related to the artist's profession in Russia. Like Turgenev in his novel Smoke (1867), Tchaikovsky always stressed the need for professional training according to the model of the German conservatories, and condemned what he considered to be the "dilettantish" reluctance of the members of the Balakirev circle (except for Rimsky-Korsakov) to subject themselves to discipline and systematic study. Moreover, like Turgenev, who in his polemic with the political émigré Aleksandr Herzen over the latter's Slavophile illusions insisted that "we Russians, by dint of our language and race, belong to the European family of nations" [47], Tchaikovsky pointed out in letters to his former student, Sergei Taneyev, that Russian music was simply one of a number of trees growing in the garden of European music, rather than some unique phenomenon, and that the most one could hope for was that with time the "Russian tree" would

"grow to a stature and beauty comparable to the German, Italian, and French ones... Although I do wish with all my heart that our music should have its 'distinct' place, and that Russian songs can infuse a fresh spirit into European music, just as the songs of other nations did in their time, I don't like it when their importance is exaggerated and when attempts are made to base on them not just some kind of independent art, but even a whole new musical science" [48]

Turgenev always emphasised that a true artist had to be free from all kinds of "preconceived notions", "theories", and "prejudices" (see, for example, his 1869 essay 'On Fathers and Sons'). Tchaikovsky, similarly, criticized Wagner and the composers of the "Mighty Handful" for having allowed "absurd preconceived theories" to ruin their talent, and in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck in the summer of 1877 he observed:

"In my view, one should write and compose following one's spontaneous impulse, without stopping to think whether it will satisfy this or that part of humanity. That's precisely how I composed Onegin, without setting myself any extraneous goals" [49]

Whilst according them some respect, Turgenev disliked the radical publicists Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828-89) and Dmitry Pisarev (1840-68) precisely for their hostility to the artist's freedom to create as prompted by his or her imagination, and for their view that art as such was always inferior to "real life". Not for nothing did he have Zinaida in the short story First Love (1860) еxclaim after her young "page" Volodya has recited a poem by Pushkin:

"This is what makes poetry so good: that it tells us about what there isn't in real life, and which is not only better than what does exist, but is in fact even closer to the truth" (Ch. IX) 

Tchaikovsky also believed in an ideal of beauty which was revealed through art and, above all, by music:

"Music is not a deception—it is a revelation. And its triumphant strength consists precisely in the fact that it reveals to us elements of beauty which are not accessible to us in other spheres, and the contemplation of which reconciles us with life not temporarily, but forever. Music both enlightens and gives joy" [50]

Like Turgenev, who regarded himself as "principally a realist" because of his striving to depict truthfully the life around him—though at the same time as an idealist because "all art is the elevation of life to an ideal", as he put it in his Pushkin speech of 1880 [51]Tchaikovsky also saw himself as a "realist" in this great Russian tradition:

"I think that I really am endowed with the ability to truthfully, honestly, and straightforwardly express through music those feelings, moods, and images which the text of a libretto or poem awakens in me. In this sense I am a realist and a deeply Russian person" [52]
An engraving by Gustave Doré for his illustration of «The Sleeping Beauty», one of Charles Perrault's «Fairy Tales»
An engraving by Gustave Doré for The Sleeping Beauty,
one of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales (1697)

It can only be regretted that Tchaikovsky could not bring himself to knock on the door of the house on the Rue de Douai until the summer of 1886, three years after Turgenev's death. On that occasion, though, he was at least able to meet Pauline Viardot and listen to what she had to say about the late Turgenev. He also had the opportunity to look through the original score of Don Giovanni in the handwriting of Mozart, the composer he loved most of all.

If Turgenev had lived longer, he would undoubtedly have continued to take joy in Tchaikovsky's music—for instance, in such a masterpiece as the ballet The Sleeping Beauty (1890), in which the music was matched perfectly to the choreography of Marius Petipa (1818-1910) so as to reveal a magic world of illuminating beauty. It was something of this kind that Turgenev was thinking of when, in his preface to an 1866 Russian edition of Perrault's famous Fairy Tales—two of which he translated himself, though not The Sleeping Beauty—he stressed the importance of "fairytales and fantasy" in the education of children, even "in our pragmatic and enlightened times" [53].


  1. Quoted in: David Brown, Tchaikovsky Remembered (London, 1993), p. 188 [back]

  2. See: A. E. Shol'p, 'I. S. Turgenev i Evgenii Onegin Chaikovskogo', in: I. S. Turgenev (1818-1883-1958). Stat'i i materialy (Oryol, 1960), p. 159-83 [back]

  3. See: V. G. Fridliand (ed.), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniakh sovremennikov (Moscow, 1988), p. 399 [back]

  4. Letter to Vladimir Stasov, 15/27 March 1872. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, ix, p. 245 [back]

  5. Cf. the following postscript in a letter of 28 May/9 June 1871 to Ludwig Pietsch from London: "Irrefutable axiom: 'No Englishman has the faintest idea of what art means. His fundamental nature is fundamentally anti-artistic'. If you come here, I shall prove it to you! (NB. I am of course not speaking of literature or poetry)". Ibid., p. 104. Original text in German: "Unwiderlegbares Axioma: 'Kein Engländer hat auch die leiseste Ahnung, was Kunst heisst. Sein Ur-Naturell ist ur-antikünstlerisch'. Wenn Sie kommen, beweise ich es Ihnen! (NB. Ich spreche natürlich nicht von Literatur, von Poesie)" [back]

  6. Letter to Lev Tolstoi, 15/27 November 1878. Ibid., xii/1, p. 384. In his excellent book Turgenev and England (London, 1980), p. 239, Patrick Waddington identified the "professor of music" whom Turgenev spoke to in Cambridge in 1878 as George Macfarren. This conversation took place at a lunch held in Turgenev's honour by the political economist Henry Fawcett [back]

  7. See Stasov's reminiscences of Turgenev in: V. G. Fridliand and S. M. Petrov (eds), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols (Moscow, 1983), ii, p. 105 [back]

  8. Tchaikovsky had originally intended to dedicate the Piano Concerto to his former student Sergei Taneyev, who intensively studied the new work during the summer of 1875, hoping to give the first performance, but who would be 'beaten' to it by Bülow. See the work history for the Piano Concerto No. 1 drawn up by Brett Langston on the Tchaikovsky Research website [back]

  9. Letter to Vladimir Stasov, 14/26 June 1872. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, ix, p. 285 [back]

  10. Cf. the entry in Tchaikovsky's album-diary for 1/13 July 1886, in which he looked back to his meeting with Tolstoi ten years earlier, at a private musical soirée which was specially arranged for the great writer at the Moscow Conservatory in December 1876 : "Perhaps never in my life, however, was I so gratified and my creative ambition so touched as when L. N. Tolstoy, sitting beside me and listening to the Andante of my First String Quartet, burst into tears". Quoted here from: Wladimir Lakond (tr.), P. Tchaikovsky. The Diaries (New York, 1945), p. 246 [back]

  11. Tchaikovsky would not actually read Goethe's novel until 1884, but Mignon's song, in Mei's excellent translation, clearly captured his imagination when he worked on his first album of romances in November 1869 [back]

  12. Cf. the reminiscences of Tchaikovsky by his friend and colleague Nikolai Kashkin (1839-1920): "This concert was, by the way, attended by I. S. Turgenev, who was then in Moscow and took an interest in the young composer, whom he had already heard about while abroad. The interest shown by the renowned writer was noticed and interpreted in a favourable sense for the composer, all the more so since Turgenev commented most approvingly on his compositions, even though he did not get to hear the principal one—the quartet—because he arrived after the start of the concert". Kashkin's reminiscences are quoted here from: M. Chaikovskii, Zhizn' Petra Il'icha Chaikovskogo [1900-02], 3 vols (Moscow, 1997), i, p. 341-42 [back]

  13. From the reminiscences of Alina Bryullova (1849-1932). Quoted here from: David Brown, Tchaikovsky Remembered (London, 1993), p. 102 [back]

  14. Letter to Nadezhda von Meck, 19 February/3 March-20 February/4 March 1879. Quoted here from the Tchaikovsky Research website (Letter 1115) [back]

  15. Letter to Maria Milyutina, 15/27 April 1871. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, ix, p. 77 [back]

  16. For more information on Evlaliya Kadmina, see: B. S. Iagolim, Kometa divnoi krasoty: Zhizn' i tvorchestvo Evlalii Kadminoi (Moscow, 1969). Significantly, Kadmina had briefly attended Tchaikovsky's composition class during the last year of her course at the Moscow Conservatory (1872-73), and on 23 May 1873 she gave a fine performance as the shepherd Lel in the Bolshoi Theatre's production of Aleksandr Ostrovsky's fairy-tale play The Snow Maiden with incidental music by Tchaikovsky, who had created the arias for Lel with Kadmina in mind. When the composer learnt of her suicide in Kharkov he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "This news has grieved me terribly, as I feel very sorry for this talented, beautiful young woman, but I was not surprised by it. I knew her strange, restless, morbidly touchy character well, and it always seemed to me that she would not end happily". Quoted from: B. S. Iagolim, op. cit., p. 135 [back]

  17. The overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet Listen to the first part of the «Romeo and Juliet» overture was in fact the first orchestral work by Tchaikovsky to be played outside Russia. In the same year it was featured at concerts in three different cities: in New York on 17 April 1876 under the baton of Hans von Bülow, in Vienna on 26 November 1876 (Hans Richter), and in Paris on 10 December 1876 (Jules Pasdeloup) [back]

  18. Letter from Yakov Polonsky to Turgenev, late February-early March 1872. First published in: G. P. Miroliubov (ed.), 'I. S. Turgenev. Perepiska s Ia. P. Polonskim', Zven'ia, viii (Moscow, 1950), p. 169. Also quoted in: A. E. Shol'p, 'I. S. Turgenev i Evgenii Onegin Chaikovskogo', in: I. S. Turgenev (1818-1883-1958). Stat'i i materialy (Oryol, 1960), p. 160 [back]

  19. Letter to Yakov Polonsky, 2/14 March 1872. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, ix, p. 237. The correspondence with Tchaikovsky which Turgenev refers to above probably had to do with sending him copies of Pauline Viardot's song-albums, but unfortunately none of the letters exchanged by the two men has yet come to light [back]

  20. Letter to Aleksandr Toporov, 26 August/7 September 1874. Ibid., x, p. 286 [back]

  21. Letter to Aleksandr Toporov, 28 September/10 October 1874. Ibid., p. 307 [back]

  22. Letter to Yakov Polonsky, 12/24 November 1875. Ibid., xi, p. 153. Vakula the Smith was eventually staged at the Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre on 24 November/6 December 1876. It was not received well, but Tchaikovsky always retained an affection for this opera, and in 1885 he would rework it as Cherevichki (sometimes referred to as The Tsarina's Slippers), which achieved a considerable success [back]

  23. As we find out from the reminiscences of Elena Blaramberg (married name: Apreleva; 1846-1923), a young writer who stayed with Turgenev and the Viardots at Bougival in the summer of 1876. See: V. G. Fridliand and S. M. Petrov (eds), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols (Moscow, 1983), ii, p. 178 [back]

  24. Letter to Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, 29 October/10 November 1889. Quoted here from: M. Chaikovskii, Zhizn' Petra Il'icha Chaikovskogo [1900-02], 3 vols (Moscow, 1997), iii, p. 293 [back]

  25. See also Tchaikovsky's letter to Yuliya Shpazhinskaya on 26 March/7 April 1887, in: V. A. Zhdanov (ed.), P. I. Chaikovskii. S. I. Taneev. Pis'ma (Moscow, 1951), p. 316-17 [back]

  26. Letter to Nadezhda von Meck, 1/13 October-3/15 October 1884. Quoted here from the Tchaikovsky Research website (Letter 2562) [back]

  27. Letter to Ivan Borisov, 27 February/10 March 1868. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, vii, p. 76 [back]

  28. As recalled by Sergei Krivenko (1847-1906), who worked for the left-wing journal Notes of the Fatherland. See: V. G. Fridliand and S. M. Petrov (eds), I. S. Turgenev v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, 2 vols (Moscow, 1983), i, p. 417 [back]

  29. See Tchaikovsky's letter of 19 February/3 March-20 February/4 March 1879 to Nadezhda von Meck. Quoted on the Tchaikovsky Research website (Letter 1115) [back]

  30. See the entry in Tchaikovsky's album-diary for 29 June/11 July 1886 which is quoted on the Tchaikovsky Research website [back]

  31. Letter to Yakov Polonsky, 30 December 1876/11 January 1877. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, xii/1, p. 52 [back]

  32. Letter to Aleksandr Toporov, 2/14 November 1878. Ibid., p. 377 [back]

  33. Letter to Lev Tolstoi, 15/27 November 1878. Ibid., p. 383-84. The English translation of this quotation is by Isaiah Berlin, from his article 'Tchaikovsky, Pushkin and Onegin', The Musical Times, vol. 121, no. 1645 (March 1980), p. 163-68 (165) [back]

  34. G. A. Pribegina, Petr Il'ich Chaikovskii (Moscow, 1986), p. 89 [back]

  35. M. Chaikovskii, Zhizn' Petra Il'icha Chaikovskogo [1900-02], 3 vols (Moscow, 1997), ii, p. 231. From the very start of his work on Onegin, Tchaikovsky had sought to create an opera about living people with real human emotions, which would be as far removed as possible from the exotic world of Grand Opera, with its "Egyptian princesses, pharaohs, poisonings and stitled effects" (i.e. as in Verdi's Aida). See his letter of 18/30 May 1877 to his brother Modest, which is quoted on the Tchaikovsky Research website [back]

  36. M. Chaikovskii, Zhizn' Petra Il'icha Chaikovskogo [1900-02], 3 vols (Moscow, 1997), ii, p. 232 [back]

  37. Letter to Nadezhda von Meck, 28 September/10 October-30 September/12 October 1883. Quoted here from the Belcanto Tchaikovsky Pages [back]

  38. Letter to Aleksandr Nezelenov, 5/17 December 1882. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, xiii/2, p. 118 [back]

  39. Letter to Pavel Annenkov, 2/14 March 1872. Ibid., ix, p. 235. This letter is also quoted in the section on Dargomyzhsky. Interestingly, Tchaikovsky too expressed the greatest dismay at Dargomyzhsky's attempt to break with operatic convention in The Stone Guest. See the relevant letters quoted on the Tchaikovsky Research website [back]

  40. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 2/14 March 1879. Quoted in: A. E. Shol'p, 'I. S. Turgenev i Evgenii Onegin Chaikovskogo', I. S. Turgenev (1818-1883-1958). Stat'i i materialy (Oryol, 1960), p. 168 [back]

  41. In the above-cited letter to Tchaikovsky of 2/14 March 1879, Jurgenson explained that he had met Turgenev at a soirée in the apartment of Vladimir Kashperov (who had been acquainted with the writer since the late 1850s—see the section on Glinka). "It is understandable that [Turgenev's] praise for Onegin jarred on Kashperov, the composer of Maria Tudor and The Storm," Jurgenson wrote; "and he tried to play his dirty tricks by saying: 'Don't you think, Ivan Sergeyevich, that so and so a passage resembles so and so a passage in Norma?' Turgenev very nicely managed to put a stop to this nonsense". Ibid., p. 169 [back]

  42. Letter to Claudie Viardot, 18 February/2 March 1879. See: A. Zviguilsky (ed.), Ivan Tourguénev. Nouvelle correspondance inédite, 2 vols (Paris, 1971), i, p. 292-93. In the original French: "J'ai été hier soir au Conservatoire, où, sous la direction de Nicolas Rubinstein, il y a eu une répétition générale de l'opéra de Tchaïkovski, Eugène Onèguine. La musique m'a semblé charmante: chaude, passionnée, jeune, très colorée et très poétique. L'orchestre est surtout d'une fraîcheur et d'une verve remarquables. C'était chanté par des élèves: aussi, tu vois d'ici l'exécution... je dis, tu vois, car heureusement, tu ne peux pas l'entendre [...] Par contre, Mlle Klimenko [sic = Klimentova], celle qui fait l'héroïne, Tatiana a une belle voix, quoique encore bien rude, et un vrai tempérament dramatique: dans de bonnes mains elle pourrait devenir quelque chose. En somme je me suis amusé". After completing her studies at the Moscow Conservatory in 1880, Maria Klimentova would join the opera company of the Bolshoi Theatre, where, seven years later, she would give the first performance of Oksana in Tchaikovsky's opera Cherevichki (the revised version of Vakula the Smith) [back]

  43. As recorded in the diary of Dimitry Sadovnikov (1847-83), a minor poet and ethnographer who was a frequent guest at the soirées which took place at Polonsky's apartment every Friday. This particular soirée took place on 1/13 February 1880. See: D. N. Sadovnikov, 'Vstrechi s I. S. Turgenevym', Russkoe proshloe (Istoricheskie sborniki) 1923, no. 3, p. 100 [back]

  44. Letter to Pauline Viardot, 20 March/1 April 1880. Ibid., p. 236-37. In the original French: "Chez la Gde Duchesse Catherine [...] Mme Lechetitska chante d'une voix encore sympathique deux ou trois petites cochonneries, mais aussi une romance (inconnue de moi) de Tchaïkowsky, ravissante, chaude, superbe! Je vous l'enverrai". The contralto Anna Leszetyckaja-Frideburg (1830-1903) was the former wife of the Polish pianist and composer Teodor Leszetycki (1830-1915), who in 1862 joined the teaching staff of the newly-founded Saint Petersburg Conservatory [back]

  45. Letter to Pauline Viardot, 1/13 April 1880. Ibid., p. 239. In the original French: "Vous savez déjà que je n'ai pas pu assister avant-hier à l'audition de la Jeanne d'Arc de Tchaïkofski chez Mme Abaza. À propos de Tch., il me semble que vous avez un cahier de 6 romances (op.38), dont l'une a pour titre Pimpinella. Mais ce n'est pas celle-ci qui me plaît le plus — c'est une autre dont le titre est: «Средь шумного бала»Au milieu du bal bruyant". Yuliya Abaza (née Stubbe; d. 1915) was the wife of the Minister of Finances, Aleksandr Abaza (1821-95), and an accomplished concert singer (mezzo-soprano). She was an admirer of Tchaikovsky's music and had organized a small private performance of Eugene Onegin (played from the piano score) at her house in Saint Petersburg on 18 March 1879, eleven days before the opera's stage première in Moscow [back]

  46. Letter to Nadezhda von Meck, 19 February/3 March-20 February/4 March 1879. Quoted here from the Tchaikovsky Research website (Letter 1115) [back]

  47. Letter to Aleksandr Herzen, 27 October/8 November 1862. See: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Pis'ma, v, p. 67 [back]

  48. Letter to Sergei Taneyev, 15/27 August–24 August/5 September 1880. See: V. A. Zhdanov (ed.), P. I. Chaikovskii. S. I. Taneev. Pis'ma (Moscow, 1951), p. 62 [back]

  49. Letter to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 August/11 September 1877. Quoted here from the Belcanto Tchaikovsky Pages [back]

  50. Letter to Nadezhda von Meck, 6/18 December 1877. Quoted here from the Belcanto Tchaikovsky Pages [back]

  51. The first quotation is from a letter of 22 February/6 March 1875 to Mariya Milyutina which is cited in more detail in the section on Musorgsky. The second, from Turgenev's speech at the Pushkin festivities in Moscow in June 1880, can be found in: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Sochineniia, xv, p. 68 [back]

  52. Letter to Vladimir Pogozhev, 6/18 January 1891. Quoted from: Vospominaniia o P. I. Chaikovskom (Leningrad, 1980), p. 193 [back]

  53. See Turgenev's brief preface in: I. S. Turgenev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 28 vols (Leningrad, 1961-68), Sochineniia, xv, p. 93-95 [back]