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yourself be thoroughly impregnated with the plan, and I am convinced that you will have found some theme or an episode by the time you reach the Sretensky Boulevard. At this moment, while I think of you and your overture, I myself am aroused involuntarily, and I picture to myself that the overture must begin with a raging “Allegro with sword-cuts,’ something like this” (Balakireff sketched five measures, to which Tschaikowsky evidently paid little heed); “I should begin something like this. If I were to compose the overture, I should thus grow enthusiastic over this egg, and should hatch it, or I should carry about the kernel in my brain until something living and possible in this fashion were developed from it. If letters just now would exert a favorable influence over you, I should be exceedingly happy. I have some right to lay claim to this, for your letters are always a help to me.” In November he wrote again in words of lively interest; he asked Tschaikowsky to send him sketches, and promised that he would say nothing about them until the overture was finished. Tschaikowsky sent him his chief themes, and, lo, Balakireff wrote a long critical review: “The first theme does not please me at all; perhaps it will come out all right in the development, but as it now is, in its naked form, it has neither strength nor beauty, and does not adequately characterize Friar Laurence. Here is the place for some
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thing after the manner of a choral by Liszt (‘Der nåchtliche Zug,” ‘Hunnenschlacht,’ and “Die heilige Elisabeth') in old Catholic style; but your theme is of a wholly different character, in the style of a quartet by Haydn, bourgeois music which awakens a strong thirst for beer. Your theme has nothing antique, nothing Catholic about it; it is much nearer the type of Gogol's ‘Comrade Kunz,' who wished to cut off his nose so that he should not be obliged to pay out money for snuff. It is possible your theme will be very different in the development— and then I'll take all this back. As for the theme in B minor, it would serve as a very beautiful introduction for a theme. After the running about in C major must come something very energetic, powerful. I take it that this is really so, and that you were too lazy to write out the continuation. The first theme in D-flat major is exceedingly beautiful, only a little languishing; the second in D-flat is simply wonderful. I often play it, and I could kiss you heartily for it. There is love's ardor, sensuousness, longing, in a word, much that would be exactly to the taste of the immoral German Albrecht. I have only one criticism to make about this theme: there is too little inner, psychical love, but rather fantastical, passionate fervor, with only slight Italian tinting. Romeo and Juliet were no Persian lovers: they were Europeans. I don't know whether you understand what I wish to say—I always find a great difficulty in expression; I launch into a musical treatise,
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and I must take refuge in illustrative examples: the theme in A-flat major in Schumann's ‘Braut von Messina' overture is a good example of a motive in which there is expression of inner love. This theme, I admit, has its weaknesses; it is morbid and too sentimental toward the end, but the ground-mood is exceedingly well caught. I await impatiently the whole score for a just view of your overture, which is full of talent. It is your best work, and your dedication of it to me pleases me mightily. This is the first piece by you which fascinates by the mass of its beauties, and in such a way that one without deliberation can call it good. It is not to be likened to the old drunken Melchisedek, who breaks into a horrible trepak" in the Arbatsky Place, from sheer misfortune. Send me the score as soon as possible. I pant to know it.” Tschaikowsky made some changes; and still Balakireff was not satisfied. He wrote February 3, 1871: “I am much pleased with the introduction, but I do not at all like the close. It is impossible for me to write explicitly about it. It would be better for you to come here, . where we could talk it over. You have made something new and good in the middle section, the alternating chords on the organ-point above, a little ‘d la Ruslan.”f There is much routine in the close;
*A Russian national dance.
the whole part after the end of the second theme (D major) is, as it were, pulled violently out of the head. The very end itself is not bad, but why these blows in the last measures? They contradict the contents of the drama, and it is coarse. Nadeshda Nikolajewna" has stricken out these chords with her pretty little hand, and would fain close her pianoforte arrangements with a pianissimo.” Nor was Balakireff content with these criticisms. He wrote: “It’s a pity that you, or, rather, N. Rubinstein, was in such a hurry about the publication of the overture. Although the new introduction is far more beautiful, I had the irresistible wish to change certain passages in the overture, and not to dismiss it so quickly, in the hope of your future works. I hope that Jurgenson will not refuse to give the score of the newly revised and finálly improved overture to the engraver a second time.” Tschaikowsky wrote, October 19, 1869, that the overture was completed. It was begun October 7, 1869; the sketch was finished October 19; by November 27, 1869, it was scored. In the course of the summer of 1870 it was wholly rewritten: there was a new introduction, the dead march towards the close was omitted, and the orchestration was changed in many passages. “Balakireff and Rimsky-Korsakoff were here yesterday,” Tschai
*The wife of Rimsky-Korsakoff. In his final version Tschaikowsky himself struck out the chords.
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