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Reconstruction of Original Letters

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I am actually reading the book The Quest for the Inner Man written by Poznansky and published in 1991. When Poznansky published this book many sources were "not easily available or remain confined in the Tchaikovsky archives at Klin under very strict supervision, excluding both Soviet and foreign researchers." In the year 1998 Poznansky had the possibility to publish several letters (I mean this was something like 17 letters) thus revealing the composer's secret life, especially his relationships with men. These letters have been published in an English book. I unfortunately no more remember the title of the book as I read it in a book shop. Nevertheless, I clearly remember that Poznansky claims that many of these letters or/and of these letters passages have been either cut out with the scissors, scribbled over or blotted out. Furthermore Poznansky added that many of these letters addressed to Anatoly and written by Tchaikovsky in the years 1876–1879 were reconstructable and that thanks of this fact he was able to publish them. I personally find these letters interesting because they show an up to now unknown side of Tchaikovsky's personality. Do you know how Poznansky succeeded in making the letters readable because if they were blotted out it was maybe difficult to reconstruct the original text.

Thanking you in advance for your answer,
I remain with kind regards

Valerie Guillaume

Over the last fifteen years I had the chance to work in the Tchaikovsky archive at Klin, Russia. There I was given access to the letters and diaries of the composer and his brothers and to various memoirs and documents relating to Tchaikovsky's life. It was most the gratifying experience of my life as a scholar, and my years of research finally came fully to fruition.

The conclusions in my biography Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, published right after fall of the Soviet Union, that were based on intuitive reconstruction of gaps in Tchaikovsky's intimate life were fully confirmed by inspecting materials that had been suppressed, distorted and bowdlerized by the composer's relatives and by Soviet censors, or that still remained unpublished. In many cases even my textual conjectures amazed me by their closeness to the originals. I found definitive answers to prove my theories regarding Tchaikovsky's first manifestations of homosexuality at the School of Jurisprudence, his devastating marriage to Antonina Milyukova, his lifestyle and his accidental death from cholera, emphatically not by suicide.

Furthermore, I learned that only 5% of all published letters were edited—248 letters out of 5,062 published in his Complete Collected Works. This censorship, perpetrated by his brothers Anatolii and Modest, as well as by various Soviet editors, was erratic and inconsistent. Occasionally "innocent" portions were removed, while much more telling ones were left untouched. The material that suffered most from the editorial intervention seems to be Tchaikovsky's confidential correspondence with his both younger brothers, especially the letters from the period 1870–79. Most of those original letters were actually preserved well, fully readable, only very few were effaced or cut out by scissors. Sometimes single lines or a couple of words in the letter were blotted out, but not very severely and were easy to read. In just two or three letters an entire paragraph was blotted out, but with help of modern technology these were easily reconstructed by local researches and scholars.

The results of this collaborative work were partially published in Russian in 1995 by V. S. Sokolov in P. I. Chaikovskii: Almanakh and in his book Antonina Chaikovskaia: Istoriia zabytoi zhizni [Antonina Tchaikovskaia: The Story of a Forgotten Life] (1994) and seventeen of Tchaikovsky's restored letters were translated into English in my article in the book Tchaikovsky and his World (1998). All letters are expected to be published in full in the new Tchaikovsky Complete Works and some of them also in new publications prepared by Russian scholars. All my own recent findings in the Tchaikovsky archive will be included in my new biography of the composer, which is in preparation at the present time.

Alexander Poznansky

There is mention here of a new edition of Tchaikovsky's correspondence (5,000+ letters). How many of these will be available in English? Also when will the new biography of the composer come out and what will be its scope. So much has already appeared in recent years thanks to Mr. Poznansky that I wonder if anything new has yet to be recounted. In any case I look forward to reading the new biography.

Thank you.

Albert Gasparo

Over 1000 letters of the composer's correspondence are available in English, published in various editions and translated by Rosa Newmarch, Galina von Meck and others. All references can be found in the "Catalogue of Letters" included in volume 2 of The Tchaikovsky Handbook (Indiana University Press, 2002). Unfortunately, many of them have been edited, but they still provide the reader with a lot of information about the man and the composer. The Tchaikovsky Archives in Klin have plans to publish all the composer's correspondence in full and without any cuts—first in Russian and then in English—but at present they have no resources to start this project.

I agree that nuch new information has already appeared in recent years, but there is always great interest in any new material concerning Tchaikovsky. Even without any sensational discoveries, my forthcoming biography will bring more details to light and fill out some important gaps from his personal life.

Alexander Poznansky

I believe I have read just about all the letters that have appeared in English. My favourite correspondence are the letters from "My Beloved Friend", which include the correspondence between Madame von Meck and Tchaikovsky for the years 1876 to I believe 1878. Here we have the correspondence from both answering each other. They wrote to ech other more than once a week during this period, and it's like overhearing the ongoing conversations between the two. It also gives an insight into Tchaikovsky's character. Probably Madame von Meck was the more direct. Tchaikovsky appears to be circumspect. This is probably one of the best introductions to the composer's biography.

Albert Gasparo

Do you know if there are any plans to have an English translation made of the book about Tchaikovsky's wife?

Barry Cornell

There were always plans to publish Sokolov's study about the composer's wife in English and as well in other languages, but these have not yet been realized. For people who can read German, I would recommend a collection of documents relating to Tchaikovsky marriage — Existenzkrise und Tragikomodie : Cajkovskijs Ehe, edited by Thomas Kohlhase, just published by Schott (2006) in Germany as Cajkovskij-Studien, Band 9.

Alexander Poznansky

In Mr. Poznansky's mail dt. 22.09.06 there is mention of Tchaikovsky's restored letters, all of them dealing with his private life.

Mr. Poznansky adds that: "In just two or three letters an entire paragraph was blotted out, but with help of modern technology these were easily reconstructed by local researches and scholars."

Was the "Louisa" letter dt. 26 february/10 march 1879 and addressed to his brother Modest one of these letters where an entire paragraph was blotted out?

Thank you

Kenny Morita

The letter to Modest from 26 February/10 March 1879 from Paris has never been blotted out. It was fully preserved in the Tchaikovsky Archive in Klin, where I had chance to read the entire letter personally.

There are more letters describing the "Louisa affair" and I hope they will be published in the near future.

Alexander Poznansky

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