A New Year’s Letter from Tchaikovsky


On January second, 1877, Peter Tchaikovsky chided his brother Modeste for not being a better correspondent.

“Most Honorable Sir Modeste Ilyich:

“I don’t know if you still remember that I exist. I happen to be your own brother. I hold the position of professor at the Moscow Conservatory and have written several compositions–operas, symphonies, overtures and so forth. There was a time when you deigned to take an interest in me. We even took a trip abroad last year, which has left an unforgettable memory in my heart.

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“Formerly you wrote frequent charming and interesting letters to me. But now that all seems like nothing but a sweet dream. Yes, you have forgotten me and don’t want to know me any more. But I’m not like you. In spite of my aversion to keeping up correspondence and in spite of being very tired–it is now midnight–here I am writing to you to remind you of my great love for you. And so, dear brother, I wish you a Happy New Year, health, happiness, and rapid success in all your new ventures.

“As for me, dear brother, the holidays passed idly and not very happily. I wanted to work but was distracted by friends. And now my relative Misha Assiere is on vacation and staying with me. He certainly is a very nice and sweet boy and I, dear brother, stay home with him every evening.

“Before the holidays I became friendly, dear brother, with the writer Count Leo Tolstoy and have a very nice letter from him. And he listened, dear brother to my first string quartet, and during the Andante he even shed tears which, dear brother, makes me very proud.

“And you, my dear brother, do not be so presumptuous to forget, dear brother, that I am a “bird” of certain importance.

“And now, good-bye my dear brother.

“Your furious brother,

Peter Tchaikovsky.”