The biography of Modest has appeared in the 1900-02 in three volumes in
At the same time (1901-04) in Leipzig in two volumes, reduced by Paul
Juon. Rosa Newmarch (London, 1905) drew up an edition in one volume using
both of the above.
This English edition has many recent remakes in the U.S. (2004 ...).
I therefore ask whether the three-volume edition of Modest exists only
in Russian language and if the German by Paul Juon was the modern remakes.
In offering to English and American readers this abridged edition of
The Life and Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, my introduction
must of necessity take the form of some justification of my curtailments
The motives which led to this undertaking, and the reasons for my
mode of procedure, may be stated in a few words.
In 1900 I published a volume dealing with Tchaikovsky ,
which was, I believe, the first attempt to embody in book form all the
literature scattered through the byways of Russian journalism concerning
the composer of the Pathetic Symphony.
In the course of a year or two the book having sold out in England
and America a proposal was made to me to prepare a new edition.
Meanwhile, however, the authorised Life and Letters,
compiled and edited by the composer's brother, Modeste Ilich
Tchaikovsky, was being issued in twenty-five parts by P. I. Jurgenson,
of Moscow .
This original Russian edition was followed almost immediately by a
German translation , published in Leipzig
by the same firm.
In November, 1901, the late P. I. Jurgenson approached me on the
subject of a translation, but his negotiations with an American firm
eventually fell through. He then requested me to find, if possible, an
English publisher willing to take up the book. Both in England and
America the public interest in Tchaikovsky seemed to be steadily
increasing. Frequent calls for copies of my small book by this time out
of print testified that this was actually the case.
An alternative course now lay before me: to revise my own book, with
the help of the material furnished by the authorised Life and Letters,
or to take in hand an English translation of the latter. The first would
have been the less arduous and exacting task ; on the other hand, there
was no doubt in my mind as to the greater value and importance of
Modeste Tchaikovsky's work.
The simplest and in many ways most satisfactory course seemed at
first to be the translation of the Russian edition in its entirety.
Closer examination, however, revealed the fact that out of the 3,000
letters included in this book a large proportion were addressed to
persons quite unknown to the English and American publics ; while at the
same time it contained a mass of minute and almost local particulars
which could have very little significance for readers unversed in every
detail of Russian musical life.
Another practical question confronted me. What publisher would
venture upon launching this biographical three-decker, with its freight
of 3,000 letters, amounting to nearly 2,000 pages of closely printed
matter? Such colossal biographies, however valuable as sources of
information to the specialist, are quite beyond all possibility of
purchase or perusal by the general public. That the author himself
realised this, seems evident from the fact that the German edition was
lightened of about a third of the original contents.
Following the lines of these authorised abridgments, while using my
own judgment as to the retention of some portions of the Russian text
omitted in the German edition, I have condensed the work still further.
It may be true, as Carlyle has said, that mankind takes "an
unspeakable delight in biography " ; but it is equally certain that
these "headlong days" which have witnessed the extinction of the
three-volume novel are absolutely unfavourable to the success of the
While admiring the patient and pious industry which has raised so
colossal a monument to Tchaikovsky's memory, I cannot but feel that it
would be unreasonable to expect of any nation but his own a hero-worship
so devout that it could assimilate a Tchaikovskiad of such prodigious
The present volume is the result of a careful selection of material.
The leading idea which I have kept in view throughout the fulfilment of
my task has been to preserve as far as possible the autobiographical
character of the book. Wherever feasible, I have preferred to let
Tchaikovsky himself tell the story of his life. For this reason the
proportion of letters to the additional biographical matter is even
greater in my version than in the German edition. When two or three
letters of only moderate interest have followed in immediate succession,
I have frequently condensed their contents into a single paragraph,
keeping as closely as possible to the phraseology of the composer
- Tchaikovsky, his Life and Works: with extracts from his
writings and the diary of his tour abroad in 1888. Grant Richards,
- Zijn Piotra Ilicha Tchaikovskavo. P. Jurgenson, Moscow.
- Das Leben Peter lljitsch Tschaikowskys , translated by Paul
Juon. P. Jurgenson, Leipzig. Two volumes.
From one note on "Tschaikowsky-gesellschaft", I can report that there
is a current German edition of the book by Modest:
This is a link to track down the book written by Modest, in the German
edition that I mentioned, edited (I must correct my typing error) from
Thomas Kohlhase and Alexander Erhard (November 2011):