Tchaikovsky on the Road


On February 12th, 1888 Peter Tchaikovsky was traveling from Leipzig to Prague. He wrote to his brother Modeste:

“On Sunday the 12th we left for Prague. At the frontier I already felt the coming celebrations. The chief of guards asked if I was Tchaikovsky, and when I said that I was he became most deferential. In the last station before Prague a delegation and an entire crowd were waiting for us and accompanied us to Prague.

“At the station in Prague–another delegation, children with flowers, two speeches–one in Russian, another long one in Czech. I replied and walked to a carriage through a thick wall of people all shouting ‘Slava!’ Meaning ‘Hail.’ At the hotel I was given a splendid suite. In the evening Verdi’s opera Otello at the Opera House; a crowd of new acquaintances and more welcomes. After the opera, supper at my hotel.

“Yesterday a visit from Dvorak who stayed for more than two hours. A tour around the town and a look at some of the important sights, accompanied by the director of the museum and a Russian priest. Supper at the home of a prominent bookseller. A ball in the best hall in town, where I sat in a box and everybody looked at me.

“Today a service in our Russian church at 10:30, a visit to the Students’ Club, dinner at Dvorak’s, another drive through the town with the museum director–he speaks very good Russian–and a big evening reception in my honor All of which is very nice, very flattering, but you can imagine how tired I get and how I suffer. I’m in a fog.

“It seems that my stay here makes sense, not so much because I am a good composer but because I am a Russian composer. I’m sending clippings from the paper. Good-bye, Modinka. Be pleased for my sake but also feel sorry for me.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.