Tchaikovsky, Piotr (1840 – 1893)

Tchaikovsky describes emotional turmoil and a ‘moral crisis’

An important and revealing four-page autograph letter signed by Piotr Tchaikovsky, in which he describes the paralyzing depression that was thought by many to have led to his suicide later the same year.

Dated from Paris, 19th January 1893, the composer writes to Ekaterina Ivanovna Laroche (“Mistress Katou”), the wife of his close friend Herman Laroche. He opens by thanking his correspondent for her letter which arrived a week ago, “and since then, partly out of laziness and partly because of lack of time, I have not been able to express in a letter my gratitude for yours.”

He goes on, “But there is another reason that paralyzes my desire to write to close friends. All this time I have been in a kind of mood of repulsion, going through a kind of moral crisis from which I shall either emerge victorious, that is, with new strength and a new desire to put pen to paper, or defeated, that is, I shall retire and begin to live very modestly, quietly living out the remainder of my life. This miserable state of mind causes me to whimper most stupidly in my letters, and since it is most boring to read whimpers, I am writing very few letters.My Brussels concert was a great success, but I was most improbably bored there and had to fight the desire to spit and flee. It has been an unsuccessful effort, and I am now overwhelmed partly by the natives and partly by my compatriots.” He goes on to relate that he is leaving for Odessa tomorrow, and has vowed to himself “that I shall never go abroad again, except as a tourist, and absolutely with someone near and dear to me.”

He closes with thoughts about his correspondent’s husband, “I hope…that our big boy is doing well” and noting that if she sees Anna Petrovna, “tell her that I shall write to her from Odessa. I’m not writing to her separately today because I’m longing to whimper, and can barely restrain myself. I kiss you hands, P. Tchaikovsky”.

In very fine condition, and together with the original envelope, hand-addressed by Tchaikovsky. Within the following three weeks, the composer poured his frustration and desperation into his magnificent final symphony, the Pathéthique.