This page is also available in French
This page gives an alphabetical listing of those persons of particular relevance to Berlioz’s relations with Russia during his career, from the 1830s down to the late 1860s, together with a documented outline of their known relations with Berlioz, and a selection of relevant letters arranged in chronological order.
It serves as a companion to the other pages on Berlioz and Russia: the main page, the separate pages on the three Russian cities he visited (St Petersburg, Moscow, and Riga), and the page transcribing in full the original French text of Octave Fouque’s extensive essay of 1882 on Berlioz and Russia. It is thus similar in purpose to the page Berlioz in London: friends and acquaintances, though a comparison with that page will immediately reveal one important difference. In the case of London the number of persons who come under the heading of ‘friends and acquaintances’ is much higher than it is with Russia – 30 names for London as against 15 in the case of Russia (the same is true for Berlioz’s numerous contacts in the German-speaking world). One reason for this is the continuity of Berlioz’s relations with London over a period of years (and likewise for Germany): Berlioz spent many months there spread over five visits, in 1847-8, 1851, 1852, 1853 and 1855, whereas in the case of Russia, far more distant and difficult of access from Paris as compared with London, his two stays of 1847 and 1867-8 were separated by an interval of 20 years. Moreover, the number of close friendships that Berlioz formed in Russia is very limited: only one Russian musician, General Lvov, can be described as being in any way close to Berlioz over a long period of time, and it was only with Berlioz’s second trip to Russia that he was brought into contact with a circle of enthusiastic young Russian musicians – notably Balakirev, Cui and Stasov – who could have become close friends had he lived longer, or had made the trip to Russia several years earlier. Yet in spite of this, and paradoxically, Berlioz’s long-term influence on Russian music was far greater than it was in the case of London, where at the end of his career Berlioz’s relations with London had become increasingly distant and not a single English composer can be said to have been influenced by Berlioz.
CG = Correspondance Générale, 8 volumes (1972-2003)
CM = Critique Musicale, 8 volumes to date (1996-2016)
Fouque = O. Fouque, Les Révolutionnaires de la musique (1882); chapter 2 (‘Berlioz en Russie’, pp. 185-256) is reproduced in full on this site
Glinka = M. I. Glinka, Memoirs trans. R. B. Mudge (University of Oklahoma, 1963)
NL = Nouvelles lettres de Berlioz, de sa famille, de ses contemporains (2016)
Stasov = Vladimir Stasov, Selected Essays on Music trans. Florence Jonas (London, 1968)
|Balakirev, Mili||Grand-Duchess Yelena Pavlovna||Odoievsky, Prince|
|Cui, César||Guedeonov, Alexander||Romberg, Heinrich|
|Damcke, Berthold||Kologrivov, Vassily||Stasov, Vladimir|
|Derffel, Josef||Lenz, Wilhelm von||Tajan-Rogé, Dominique|
|Glinka, Mikhail||Lvov, General Alexei||Wielhorsky, Count Mikhail|
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Balakirev, Mili (1837-1910; portrait), the leading figure in a group of five Russian composers which besides Balakirev comprised Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin. They came together from the late 1850s onwards with the encouragement of the writer Vladimir Stasov and formed a circle of composers who took Glinka as their model and inspiration, and sought to promote a specifically Russian school of music (Stasov, pp. 90-110). Balakirev met Glinka in 1855 and Stasov the following year. Like others in the group Balakirev prided himself on his independence: he was self-made, did not study at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, and saw himself as standing in opposition to the cosmopolitan musical establishment of the imperial capital. In 1862 he founded the Free Music School in rivalry to the official Russian Musical Society which had been founded three years earlier: as well as performing works of leading contemporary composers, the Free Music School was intended to promote the music of the young Russian composers which the Russian Musical Society neglected. Balakirev was conductor of the Free Music School from 1867 to 1872.
From an early date Balakirev was an admirer of Berlioz’s music, as was Stasov, and became familiar with all the published works of Berlioz. For example he studied closely the score of the Te Deum which had been published in 1855, and one may detect his hand in the request put by Stasov to Berlioz in 1862 to donate to the Imperial Library in St Petersburg the autograph score of the work (CG nos. 2650, 2676, 2676bis; cf. Fouque, p. 230 and Stasov, p. 162). He went on later to put on a performance of the complete work, including the then unpublished 3rd movement, at a concert of the Free Music School (CG no. 3375). In the summer of 1867 he was appointed conductor of the Russian Musical Society, but at the suggestion of the Grand-Duchess, patron of the society, six of the ten concerts of the season were entrusted to Berlioz, though Balakirev was to assist Berlioz at rehearsals and be in charge of the chorus (CG nos. 3282, 3282bis, 3289; Fouque, p. 234). It was through the insistence of Balakirev and Kologrivov that Berlioz was persuaded after his arrival in St Petersburg to include more of his own music than he had originally planned for his concerts (Fouque p. 241; Stasov, p. 164). During his stay in St Petersburg Balakirev was one of those with whom Berlioz had most contact, at rehearsals and on social occasions (Fouque, p. 245; Stasov, p. 166), and before he left St Petersburg Berlioz significantly donated his baton to Balakirev (Stasov, p. 168). Balakirev continued to champion Berlioz’s music in Russia subsequently (cf. CG no. 3375), and in 1878 published an arrangement of the symphony Harold in Italy for piano with 4 hands.
Berlioz thought highly of Balakirev, and was upset when in the summer of 1868, after his return from St Petersburg, he was asked to recommend for the following season of the Russian Musical Society the German conductor Max Seifriz, whom he had met in Löwenberg in 1863. But this was on the understanding that he would also criticise Balakirev, something he was not prepared to do (CG nos. 3364, 3373, 3375; Stasov, pp. 168-9). The following year Balakirev was all the same removed from his post.
There are no extant letters of Berlioz to Balakirev, though he is mentioned in a number of other letters (CG nos. 3282, 3282bis, 3289, 3346, 3373). Only one letter of Balakirev to Berlioz survives (CG no. 3374), which was translated for Berlioz by Stasov: Balakirev was not fluent in French. In this letter, of September 1868, Balakirev urged Berlioz not to give up composition, a plea Berlioz had heard repeatedly in St Petersburg (cf. CG no. 3346; Stasov, p. 166), and suggested Byron’s Manfred as a suitable subject for a symphonic work. Very ill by this time, Berlioz almost certainly did not reply: the last letter of Berlioz known to Stasov dates from the previous month (CG no. 3373; Stasov, p. 169). Years later, in 1882, Balakirev put his suggestion to Tchaikovsky, and this time with success: completed in 1885, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred symphony received its first performance in Moscow the following year.
Cui, César (1835-1918; portrait), Russian composer and music critic, and the first to join Balakirev and Stasov in what became in the late 1850s and early 1860s a group of Russian musicians dedicated to developing a national school of Russian composers (Stasov, pp. 97-101). They all shared a common admiration for Glinka, whom they regarded as the true founder of the Russian school, but also had a special admiration among contemporary composers for Berlioz, Liszt and Schumann, all three of whom had visited Russia in the 1840s, the first two with considerable public success. From 1864 Cui contributed to the movement as a critic and writer in the Russian press.
His first personal contact with Berlioz came in August 1867 when he visited him in Paris and requested permission to make a copy of parts of the unpublished full score of Les Troyens, in which Russian musicians had a keen interest; this was intended for performance at Balakirev’s Free School of Music in St Petersburg. The two men evidently found each other congenial, and Berlioz at first accepted the request, but then quickly changed his mind in view of the questions of copyright involved (CG no. 3268, cf. 3303 which probably refers to Cui; Fouque, p. 246; Stasov, pp. 162-3). The question of Les Troyens was to be raised again with Berlioz during his stay in St Petersburg. On his return to Russia Cui published an article in the St Petersburg Gazette relating his meeting and Berlioz’s views on fellow composers and conductors, and his objection to having his works performed in excerpts (Stasov, p. 163 quotes from the article). The article no doubt helped to prepare the ground for Berlioz’s visit to St Petersburg the following winter.
Cui was one of the circle of Russian musicians with whom Berlioz had frequent contacts during his stay in St Petersburg. He reviewed Berlioz’s concerts enthusiastically, praising Berlioz’s originality as a composer, and then goes on to comment on his prowess as a conductor (quoted by Stasov, p. 166):
There is not another conductor whose performances are truer to the composer’s intentions, who has a greater understanding of the spirit of a work, who preserves so completely all of its nuances… What a grasp he has of Beethoven; how meticulous, how thoughtful his performances are; how effective yet free of the slightest concession to false, tawdry brilliance. As an interpreter of Beethoven, I prefer Berlioz to Wagner who, despite excellent qualities, is sometimes affected and here and there inclined towards sentimentality. For us Gluck became utterly new, alive, unrecognizable. Even though he is now outmoded, it cannot be denied that he was a brilliant innovator, a genius. As for Berlioz’s own works, the magnificent performances under his direction have revealed many wonders that we not even suspected were there, even after the most careful study of his enormous, complex scores. And how simple, how restrained Berlioz is on the podium; yet how amazingly precise his gestures are! And how modest he is! […] Of all the conductors we have heard in St Petersburg, Berlioz is certainly the greatest; as an artist wholly dedicated to music, he deserves our admiration, respect and unbounded affection.
Soon after Berlioz’s departure Cui published an announcement in the St Petersburg Gazette of the agreement concluded with Berlioz to allow a copy to be made of the full score of Les Troyens: Cui expressed the hope that the work would be performed complete at the Mariinsky Theatre the following season, possibly under the supervision of Berlioz himself (Stasov, p. 168). But the plan came to nothing, and it was not until 1899 that the work received its first performance in Russia. Back in Paris Berlioz remained in correspondence with Cui (CG no. 3359) as with his other new Russian friend Stasov, and Cui is mentioned in several of the letters of 1868 (CG nos. 3346, 3356, 3373). But in view of Berlioz’s age and deteriorating health it was no longer possible for these relationships to blossom as they might have done years earlier, and within a year Berlioz was dead.
Damcke, Berthold (1812-1875; portrait), German musician and composer, born in Hanover. Berlioz first met him in St Petersburg in 1847 when Damcke took part in a performance of the Symphonie Fantastique in Berlioz’s last concert by playing on the piano the part of the bells in the last movement, a fact which Berlioz made a point of mentioning in his Memoirs (chapter 56). But it was only years later that the two became very close when Damcke settled in Paris in 1859 and became professor at the Conservatoire. From this time onwards he and his wife Louise became very close friends of Berlioz; they lived at 11 rue Mansart (CG no. 3308), very near Berlioz’s apartment in rue de Calais, and Berlioz was a frequent visitor at their place (Memoirs, Voyage en Dauphiné). Berlioz praised Damcke’s merits as musician and composer in several of his feuilletons (Journal des Débats3 January and 7 April 1861; 26 January 1863). When away from Paris the Damckes were among the select circle of friends to whom Berlioz would write freely about personal matters (cf. CG nos. 2886-7 [Berlioz’s elevation to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honour], 3036 [a letter from Geneva concerning his meeting with Estelle Fornier], 3192, 3275 [his forthcoming trip to Russia: ‘If it kills me at least I will know that it was worth it’], 3308, 3312 [he asks Damcke to send his personal copy of the Memoirs to the Grand-Duchess in St Petersburg; in practice it was Stephen Heller who sent his copy, cf. CG no. 3326]). The summer before he went to Russia Berlioz appointed him one of his two testamentary executors (together with Edouard Alexandre, the instrument-maker), with the words: ‘I am too poor to be able to leave them a memento of any value … but I ask B. Damcke to take all the engraved copies of my scores he will find in the bookcase in my study’.
Derffel, Josef (1823-1884), Austrian pianist and composer; in February 1865 he was appointed court pianist of the Grand-Duchess Yelena Pavlovna and played an important part in organising Berlioz’s visit to Russia in 1867-1868. A number of letters addressed by Berlioz to him in connection with this visit (CG nos. 3282, 3285, 3287, 3341, 3347 in CG vol. VII; CG no. 3291bis in NL p. 660, cf. p. 665) have been attributed to his near namesake, the German musician and publisher Alfred Dörffel (1821-1905). Alfred Dörffel had published in 1864 his German translation of Berlioz’s treatise on orchestration (cf. CG no. 2870); he was also known to Berlioz in connection with the music of Gluck. Dörffel had prepared for the publisher Heinze in Leipzig an edition of Gluck’s Orphée which Berlioz had declined to do himself. The edition appeared in May 1866 and a copy was sent by the publisher to Berlioz for comment (CG nos. 3134, 3146); in his reply Berlioz commended the work of Dörffel for its painstaking accuracy (CG no. 3164). But it was the pianist Josef Derffel, and not the publisher Alfred Dörffel, who corresponded with Berlioz in connection with his trip to Russia (CG nos. 3282, 3285, 3287, 3291bis), helped to organise the trip and accompanied Berlioz and the singer Anna Regan on the train journey from Berlin to St Petersburg (CG nos. 3287, 3304), where he was the soloist in Beethoven’s piano concerto no. 5 in the concert on 25 January 1828. Derffel stayed on in St Petersburg after the departure of Berlioz, who wrote to him after his return to Paris (CG nos. 3341, 3347). This last letter mentions a project for an edition of Gluck in which Derffel and the Grand-Duchess were in some way involved; the project was only undertaken by others after Berlioz’s death. — We are very grateful to Grigory Moiseev, who made the correct identification of Josef Derffel, for drawing our attention to the point; the results of his researches are published in Musicology vol. 5 (2017), pp. 39-50 [in Russian] and outlined in The Berlioz Society Bulletin 203 (September 2017), pp. 51-64.
Glinka, Mikhail (1804-1857; portrait), the foremost Russian composer of his day and a strong influence on the next generation of Russian composers. The relations between Berlioz and Glinka may be considered at two levels, the musical and the personal. The two most important composers of their own time in their respective countries, Berlioz and Glinka came to appreciate each other’s music, in which they found much common ground. But it was more a question of temperamental affinity than of any marked reciprocal influences: by the time they came to know each other more closely they had each developed separately their own individual style and composed some of their most significant works — the operas A Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Ludmila for Glinka, the four symphonies, Benvenuto Cellini and the Requiem for Berlioz. At the personal level their mutual appreciation did not develop into a lasting friendship: it was only for a few brief months, in the winter and spring of 1844-1845 that the two men became close and saw each other in Paris regularly, but thereafter they went their separate ways and did not apparently meet again.
Their first encounter took place coincidentally in Rome in the autumn of 1831. Berlioz had been obliged to leave Paris for Italy as a result of winning the Prix de Rome competition of 1830. Glinka on the other hand had himself made the decision to come to Italy to study the musical scene there, as previous Russian musicians had done. In the end he was disappointed with Italian music, as was Berlioz, and the result was that he conceived the ambition of writing music that would be Russian in character (Glinka, pp. 82-3; Stasov, pp. 67-9). The first meeting of the two men in Rome had no lasting significance for either of them: Berlioz only mentioned it briefly a decade and a half later in a newspaper article, but is silent on the subject in his extant correspondence and his later Memoirs,and as for Glinka the meeting seems not to have left any trace at all in any of his writings.
For years afterwards neither paid any further attention to the other’s music. Glinka may not have heard any work of Berlioz till his visit to Paris in 1844-1845. It does not seem that he was present at the performance of Berlioz’s Requiem organised and conducted by Heinrich Romberg in St Petersburg in June 1841: on his own admission he was at the time preoccupied with the breakdown of his marriage (Glinka, p. 163; Stasov p. 158). But at least Glinka will have been aware of the growing interest in Berlioz that was developing in Russia at the time, and when he met Liszt in St Petersburg in the spring of 1842 during the latter’s first visit to Russia, and again during Liszt’s second visit the following year (Stasov, pp. 118-42), he may have heard from him about Berlioz. At any rate his decision in 1844 to go and spend some months in Paris was motivated in part, as he wrote in a letter of April 1845, by the wish to study Berlioz’s music at first hand (the account in Glinka’s Memoirs, written in 1856, over a decade later, does not make clear his purpose in going to Paris). The same was true on Berlioz’s side: he had little opportunity to get to know Glinka’s music until the visit of 1844-1845. His attention may have been drawn to Glinka by Liszt, the first western musician of stature to have declared his support for the Russian composer (Stasov, pp. 135-40), though there does not appear to be any specific evidence for this. Berlioz may have also picked up echoes of the Russian musical scene during his travels to Germany in 1842-1843, and it is likely that he will have seen an article by Henri Mérimée published in Paris in 1844 in which Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar was highly praised (‘it is more than an opera, it is a national epic’: Glinka, pp. 182-3).
The meeting of Glinka and Berlioz in Paris had very positive consequences for both composers who came to appreciate each other for the first time, as can be documented from their writings. Extant is a letter of Berlioz to Glinka of March 1845 in which he asks him for information in preparation for an article on the Russian composer (CG no. 953; the information requested was in the event provided not by Glinka but by a friend); another letter of August 1845, addressed to Alexei Lvov, refers to Berlioz’s meetings with Glinka earlier in the year (CG no. 986). The article on Glinka appeared in Berlioz’s feuilleton in the Journal des Débats of 16 April (CM VI pp. 33-39), a large part of which was devoted to a warm appreciation of the Russian composer and of Russian music in general: the French musical public was invited to take note of the emerging composers from Northern Europe (in his article Berlioz also mentioned the Dane Niels Gade, whose music he first heard in Leipzig in 1843). The article was very well received in Russia, and Berlioz’s support for Russian composers and Russian music was not forgotten (see the citation of prince Odoievsky’s article in Fouque). Prior to the publication of the article Berlioz included pieces by Glinka in two of the large concerts he gave in Paris that year (16 March and 6 April). Glinka’s view of his experiences in Paris is illustrated by excerpts from two letters of 1845 cited many years later by Stasov (pp. 147, 158), one dated 6 April and the other not precisely dated, and by an important passage in his own Memoirs (pp. 191-4):
That winter [1844-45] many of my fellow countrymen arrived in Paris. Among them was Prince Vasily Petrovich Golytsin (the one I had lived with on the Black River). He and other friends and some Russian ladies urged me to introduce my music to Paris, and I foolishly agreed.
Souza, whom I often visited, learned of my intentions and offered his services. He introduced me to Hector Berlioz, who was then planning a trip to Russia, counting on a rich harvest, not of applause alone, but also of rubles. Berlioz treated me most kindly (which was not the rule among Parisian musicians, who were usually unbearably arrogant and supercilious), and I called on him two or three times a week, talking frankly with him about music and especially about his own compositions, which I liked, particularly those of an imaginative nature, such as the Scherzo, Queen Mab from Romeo and Juliet, The Pilgrims’ March from Harold, Dies irae and Tuba Mirum spargens sonum from his Requiem. […]
In March, Berlioz gave two prodigious concerts at the amphitheatre on the Champs Elysées. He liked my Lezghinka, which I had transcribed for orchestra alone. Moreover, Berlioz and I asked Mme. Solovieva (née Verteuil, married to M. Melchior), who was then in Paris, to sing the cavatine from A Life for the Tsar – At An Open Field I Gaze – to which she readily agreed.
When we started rehearsing, I soon found that French musicians are not very good at paying attention – they prefer to talk and chat with their neighbours. I also noticed that sometimes, especially in the heavy passages, they resort to their snuffboxes and handkerchiefs. […]
At Berlioz’s concert in the amphitheatre my Lezghinka did not have its hoped-for success because many of the effects had been designed to be played between two orchestras – one on the stage, consisting of wind instruments, and another below the stage (in the orchestra) in which the strings predominated. Berlioz had a total of 150 musicians – consequently they were spread out too much and the listener could not grasp the whole, but only hear the sounds of those instruments near him. […] (Glinka here gives details about the performance and the various problems involved) […]
Despite all this the hall was filled: apparently the Russian ladies in Paris had agreed to adorn this concert given by their fellow countryman; they appeared in great finery, so that one paper, in referring to my concert, said: “Que c’était un parterre de fleurs.” Adeline sat in the third row, and when I came on stage to accompany Marras, she blushed prettily from excitement and concern.
The Parisian public could not, of course, really be made acquainted with my musical talent from the few pieces – and those not my best – that were performed at this concert. Nevertheless, I had a success (succès d’estime). Many papers wrote about me: the editor of the Revue Britannique wrote an extremely kind article about me, Maurice Bourge also wrote, and finally, Berlioz had a very long article with a brief story of my life entitled "Michel Glinka" in the Journal des Débats.
Melgunov had provided Berlioz with the data for this article. I have lost my copy but anyone wishing to read it can find it in the Journal des Débats for April or May, 1845 [16 April 1845].
I often called upon Berlioz, for I found his sharp, even caustic conversation always entertaining. Naturally, I did all I could to make his forthcoming trip to Russia a success.
The friendly relations started between the two men in Paris did not however lead to a lasting personal relationship and after 1845 they did not apparently meet again, nor did any correspondence develop between them (unlike that between Berlioz and Lvov). Glinka left Paris in May 1845 to travel to Spain, and only returned to St Petersburg in 1847 after Berlioz’s departure: his absence from the capital city during the visit of the composer who had supported him and whose work he admired was commented on at the time (see the article by prince Odoievsky reproduced in Fouque). Glinka later returned to Paris in August 1852, where he visited again Henri Mérimée and stayed until April 1854 (Glinka, pp. 231-9), but there is no indication that he sought at any time to see Berlioz again. Glinka also relates that in 1854 he orchestrated Weber’s Invitation to the Dance but curiously fails to mention the fact that Berlioz himself had written an orchestral version of the same work many years earlier (Glinka, p. 246). But their mutual admiration as composers endured. When Glinka died in 1857 his sister decided to offer to dedicate some of his works to other musicians who had particularly appreciated him; Berlioz was one of these, and was very pleased to accept (CG no. 2250). It is no accident that the group of young Russian musicians who arose in the late 1850s and early 1860s and who regarded Glinka as their model and inspiration should all have shared Glinka’s admiration for Berlioz (Stasov, pp. 66-116). In this respect the meeting of Berlioz and Glinka in Paris in 1845 was of long term significance both for Berlioz himself and for Russian music.
Grand-Duchess Yelena Pavlovna (1807-1873; portrait), sister-in-law of the emperor Nicolas and aunt of the emperor Alexander II. The Grand-Duchess was not Russian but of German origin: she was born in Stuttgart where she also died, and had been educated in Paris (among her many qualities Berlioz appreciated her fluency in French: CG no. 3274). Her original name was Frederika Charlotte Maria, but she changed this in 1824 when she married the Russian Grand-Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798-1849); after his early death she devoted her energies and considerable wealth (CG no. 3314) to a variety of charitable and artistic causes. As early as 1844 she was suggesting the foundation of a Conservatoire for music in St Petersburg, an idea that was only realised, with her backing, in 1862 (Stasov, p. 144). It does not appear that Berlioz met her personally before 1867 (there is no reference to her in Berlioz’s writings concerning the visit of 1847), but she was known to him before then: Berlioz mentions the salon she had in Moscow in a feuilleton of 1856 (Journal des Débats, 15 November), and the following year her name was mentioned in the Revue et gazette musicale (3 May 1857) as one of the subscribers to the full score of the Te Deum (cf. CG no. 2211 with CG V p. 434 n. 1). On her side the Grand-Duchess was evidently fully aware of Berlioz’s international reputation long before she issued in September 1867 an invitation to Berlioz to come and conduct a series of six concerts in St Petersburg.
The invitation, coming at a very late stage of Berlioz’s career, deserves comment: apart from Paganini’s gift of 20,000 francs in 1838 it was the most generous offer that Berlioz ever received, surpassing those of Frederick Beale in London in 1852 and Édouard Bénazet in Baden-Baden in the years 1856-1863. During his travels in Germany Berlioz had benefited from the support and encouragement of a number of cultured members of the German aristocracy (the royal families of Prussia and Hanover, the ducal family of Weimar): his career appropriately concluded with the trip to Russia, which was entirely paid for by the Grand-Duchess herself, who provided lavish hospitality in a splendid apartment in her own palace, with French-speaking domestics and free use of one of her carriages. As one newspaper put it, the invitation of Berlioz was an ‘imperial present’ to St Petersburg (CG no. 3310).
The background to the invitation is not entirely clear and has to be reconstructed from scattered hints. Berlioz had previously received an invitation from St Petersburg in the autumn of 1864, it is not clear from whom; but he declined it as he thought the terms were not sufficiently tempting and his health might not withstand the stresses of the journey and of the Russian winter (CG nos. 2920, 2930). The following two years he was receiving reports that his music was being performed in Russia and well received (CG nos. 3027, 3151). The Grand-Duchess may have concluded that in order to attract Berlioz to Russia she needed to make an offer so generous that Berlioz could not refuse. A series of concerts under probably the greatest conductor of his day, whose music was widely appreciated in Russian musical circles, was a worthwhile objective in itself: it would lend great lustre to the still young Russian Musical Society of which she was the patron (it was founded in 1859, and the St Petersburg Conservatoire in 1862).
But there was also an undercurrent of internal musical politics of which Berlioz was probably never fully aware. For some years Russian musical life had been divided between a cosmopolitan musical establishment, in which non-Russian musicians exercised strong influence (Anton Rubinstein was the first director of the Conservatoire), and a smaller group of young Russians, led by Stasov and Balakirev, who sought to promote a specifically Russian school of music. The Grand-Duchess, patron of the Russian Musical Society, was on the side of the musical establishment (it is not possible to say whether her German origins played any part in this). When Rubinstein resigned from the Conservatoire in August 1867, his position was split between a director (Zaremba) and a conductor for the concerts of the Russian Musical Society (Balakirev), but the Grand-Duchess suggested inviting at her own expense Berlioz to take charge of six of the ten concerts of the forthcoming season, thus reducing the participation of Balakirev (Fouque, p. 233). Writing to his niece Nancy Suat, and presumably reproducing the view expressed by the Grand-Duchess herself, Berlioz related that her intention was ‘to show to the Russian faction, which at the moment tends to dominate St Petersburg’s small musical world, that it is nothing but vain and ridiculous’ (CG no. 3274). What Berlioz did not know at the time was that the person leading the ‘Russian faction’ was none other than Balakirev himself. It so happened that during his stay in St Petersburg Berlioz formed a very favourable impression of Balakirev, who gave him unstinted support in the preparations for his concerts. The underlying tensions appear to have been kept from Berlioz while he was there, but on his return to Paris he received an unpleasant surprise: he was asked by the secretary of the Grand-Duchess to recommend for the following season of the Russian Musical Society the German conductor Seifriz, whom he had met in Löwenberg in 1863 (CG no. 3364), and soon after he was also asked to denigrate Balakirev, which he had no intention of doing (CG no. 3373). The following year Balakirev was removed from his post, and it seems that the Grand-Duchess and those who were advising her had achieved their objective.
Stasov’s presentation of the Grand-Duchess deserves comment in this context: never one to show restraint in expressing his likes and dislikes, Stasov is conspicuously reticent whenever he mentions the Grand-Duchess (Stasov, pp. 93, 144, 163-4, 167-9). He never makes clear the polemical background to the invitation of Berlioz in September 1867, though he will have been well aware of it, and does not make clear either what lay behind the move to replace Balakirev in 1868, though he commended Berlioz for his defence of Balakirev (CG no. 3375). To criticise openly a member of the imperial aristocracy was unthinkable, and Stasov will also have been aware of how highly Berlioz regarded the Grand-Duchess.
Not surprisingly there are few surviving letters of Berlioz to the Grand-Duchess herself, and they all date from after his return to Paris (CG nos. 3354, 3361, cf. 3364): persons of her standing normally communicated with others through intermediaries, such as the Count of Keyserling (CG nos. 3272, 3273), Kologrivov, Derffel, and her secretary Becker (CG nos. 3354, 3364). It is a mark of the high esteem of the Grand-Duchess for Berlioz that she enquired about him on his return and Berlioz responded directly (CG nos. 3354, 3361; it took him two days to write this last letter, cf. CG no. 3363). To the last known letter addressed to Berlioz by her secretary she added a few lines in her own hand (CG no. 3364). Berlioz on his side formed a very high opinion of the Grand-Duchess, who represented for him all that was best in the cultured German aristocracy of the age. While Berlioz was in St Petersburg, she did him the honour of asking him to read to her Hamlet in French, though it is unlikely that Berlioz had the strength to carry this out (CG nos. 3312, 3313, 3314, 3318). In letter after letter there is nothing but praise on the part of Berlioz for her generosity, her refinement and dedication to literary culture (see especially CG nos. 3274, 3305, 3310), and he paid her the ultimate accolade of comparing her to none other than his childhood idol, Estelle Fornier (CG no. 3314).
Guedeonov, General Alexander was director of the imperial theatres in St Petersburg at the time of Berlioz’s visit in 1847. Berlioz wrote to him before his departure (CG no. 1095), and according to the account in the Memoirs (chapter 55 and chapter 56) Guedeonov was helpful in facilitating Berlioz’s concerts. Berlioz makes a passing allusion to him in a feuilleton of 1855 (Journal des Débats, 26 January, p. 2).
Kologrivov, Vassily (b. 1820), was secretary of the Russian Musical Society at the time of Berlioz’s second trip to Russia in 1867-1868. The date of his death appears not to be known. Fouque gives the French text of three letters of Berlioz to him about the preparation of his concerts; the original of the first one has not been preserved (CG nos. 3289, 3293, 3304; cf. 3287); the first letter was written in response to a letter of Kologrivov (CG no. 3282bis) in which Kologrivov gave a description of the Russian Musical Society and of its activities. The letter of Berlioz is of special interest in that it gives the complete programme of the six concerts as originally planned by Berlioz following the suggestions of the Grand-Duchess (in the event Berlioz was persuaded to modify these to include far more of his own music than he had intended, partly at the insistence of Kologrivov, as well as Balakirev: Fouque, p. 241 and Stasov, p. 164). Fouque also cites the text of an agreement made between Berlioz and Kologrivov on behalf of the Russian Musical Society, allowing the Society to make a copy of the full score of Les Troyens with a view to performance in Russia, and of a receipt of Berlioz for the money received, dated 31 January 1868. Kologrivov was one of those present at the performance of Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar which Berlioz attended on 5 February/24 January (Stasov, p. 166). He is also mentioned in a letter of Berlioz to Stasov (CG no. 3346).
Lenz, Wilhelm von (1809-1883), was an adviser to the Russian emperor, and at the same time an amateur musician and writer with a particular interest in Beethoven. Berlioz met him in Paris a few years before his trip to Russia in 1847 and Lenz was one of the first to greet Berlioz on his arrival in St Petersburg (Memoirs, chapter 55). During his stay in the city Berlioz had frequent opportunities to see him socially (CG no. 1242), and it is possible that at the time Lenz told Berlioz about his interest in Beethoven. Two years later Lenz approached Berlioz about a book on Beethoven he had written in French and was hoping to get published in some form in Paris; he suggested sending the manuscript to Berlioz (CG no. 1242). What then happened is not clear, but the book did eventually appear in St Petersburg in 1852 under the title Beethoven et ses trois styles; Lenz may have sent Berlioz a copy, which Berlioz used to review the book in a feuilleton in the Journal des Débats of 11 August 1852. The review does not specify who the publisher was, and according to Berlioz himself (CG no. 1496) the book was difficult to find in Paris. Berlioz was generally very warm in his praise of the work, and reproduced the review later that year in the Second Epilogue of his Soirées de l’orchestre, but with one significant omission: Berlioz was very critical of Lenz’s incorrect French, but the paragraph on this point was omitted from the Soirées de l’orchestre. In private Berlioz continued to voice that criticism of Lenz (CG nos. 1496, 2216). There is nothing to suggest that after this time Lenz and Berlioz maintained any regular correspondence, though relations remained cordial (cf. CG no. 2022 in 1855). Berlioz and Lenz met again several times during Berlioz’s visit to St Petersburg in 1867-1868, as shown by a letter of Lenz to Berlioz shortly after the latter’s return to Paris (CG no. 3340).
Lvov, General Alexei Feodorovich (1799-1870; portrait), violinist, composer and director of the Imperial Chapel in St Petersburg, a position he took over from his father in 1837 (his father had died the previous year). Of all the Russians Berlioz met before or during his first visit to Russia in 1847, Lvov was the one who became closest to him, and the two men maintained a correspondence that lasted for some twenty years. Berlioz apparently first heard of Lvov in Berlin in 1843; he probably also found out more about him from Glinka during the latter’s visit to Paris in 1844-1845. Glinka knew Lvov well and refers to him several times in his Memoirs (pp. 114-16, 131-2, 136, 138, 227); for example, his first recollection of Lvov was of him playing the violin, and he recalls ‘the sweetly delicate sounds of Aleksei Fedorovich’s entrancing violin [which] became deeply engraved on my memory’ (Glinka, p. 18). In Berlioz’s writings Lvov is first mentioned in the article on Glinka in the Journal des Débats of 16 April 1845:
I must mention at this point that the chapel choir of the Emperor of Russia is something wonderful, and if we are to believe all the Italian, German and French artists who have heard it, we are able to form only a very imperfect idea of it […] This choir, which Glinka left in an admirable state of splendour, has gained even more of late under the learned direction of General Lvov, a violinist and composer of great merit, one of the amateur musicians, one might say one of the most distinguished artists that Russia possesses, whose works I have often heard praised during my stay in Berlin.
The Russian musical public paid close attention to the French press. Lvov was delighted and encouraged by the article, and approached Berlioz directly; Berlioz responded very positively (CG no. 986). From the outset there was between the two men a natural convergence of musical sympathies as well as of interests: both musicians sought recognition in each other’s capital city, and both were in a position to assist one another.
It was natural therefore that in January 1847, before he set off for Russia, Lvov was one of the members of the Russian musical establishment whom Berlioz contacted (cf. CG no. 1095). The visit to St Petersburg in the spring of 1847 had the effect of cementing their relationship: the two men developed a personal liking for each other which ensured that their friendship would be lasting (unlike Berlioz’s much more distant relations with Count Wielhorsky). Berlioz praised Lvov warmly in his account of the visit of 1847 in the Memoirs (chapter 55), where he describes him as ‘a composer and virtuoso of the rarest merit, who from the start displayed to me as a musical colleague the utmost cordiality’ (cf. CG no. 1099). This was no mere courtesy on the part of Berlioz, as his steady correspondence with Lvov over the years 1847-1852 shows. Berlioz wrote to Lvov from Riga soon after leaving St Petersburg, thanking him for providing recommendations in Riga but also praising the music of his opera Ondine (CG no. 1112). It is fortunate that for once Lvov’s reply has been preserved (CG no. 1134bis; a few years later Berlioz gave some letters of Lvov to an autograph collector, cf. CG no. 1444bis [in vol. VIII]): it shows there was mutual friendship and esteem between the two men, and they were anxious to stay in touch. Berlioz remained in contact with Lvov during his trip to London in 1848, and now wrote in more personal terms (CG no. 1170). He wrote again in early 1849 when back in France; Lvov at the time was exploring the possibility of promoting himself in Paris as an operatic composer, and though nothing came of this Berlioz did what he could to assist (CG no. 1246, cf. 1251, 1261).
Apart from the musical and financial success of the visit of 1847, Berlioz was able to experience for himself the exceptional quality of the imperial chapel choir of St Petersburg. His reaction is most vividly expressed in a letter to his sister Adèle the day after (CG no. 1106); it was one of the most striking memories he brought back from his visit to Russia, and it lingered in his mind for a long time. A few years later he performed in Paris two choral pieces by Dimitri Bortniansky (1751-1825), a former director of the imperial chapel, with a Latin text he had supplied himself: the Chant des chérubins on 22 October and 12 November 1850 (he later performed the piece in one of his concerts in London in 1852), and the Pater noster on 21 January 1851. The two works were also published in Paris at the same time as the performances, and the performances were announced in advance by Berlioz in the Journal des Débats (19 October 1850 and 17 January 1851 respectively). In the latter article Berlioz also announced that Lvov was sending him a parcel of choral music of Bortniansky, and soon after he wrote again to Lvov on the subject (CG no. 1379). The material he received provided the substance for another, more developed article on the imperial chapel and the work of Lvov (Journal des Débats, 13 December 1851), which again prompted a warm response from Lvov (cf. CG no. 1443). The article also provoked another letter from an appreciative Russian in Paris who sent Berlioz further biographical information on Bortniansky, together with a portrait of the composer which was eventually published in L’Illustration of 7 August 1852 together with the letter (CG no. 1438).
A substantial part of what Berlioz had written in the various Débats articles on Bortniansky, the imperial chapel, and Lvov was reproduced by Berlioz in 1852 in the Soirées de l’orchestre (21st evening): he evidently wanted to give further publicity to Russian music, particularly since his account of his Russian travels of 1847 was still not completed (cf. CG no. 1631). Some years later Berlioz recalled once more the exceptional quality of the imperial chapel: ‘What a pity that it is not possible to let the Parisians hear even once the 80 singers of the court of the Russian emperor, to teach them at last what ensemble vocal music, sung with nuance, really is! But Paris is far, very far from St Petersburg’ (Journal des Débats, 3 July 1857; cf. also 2 October 1855; 11 November 1862).
After 1852 it seems that the correspondence between Berlioz and Lvov slowed down, as the immediate prospects of a return visit to Russia receded. Berlioz wrote to him again in 1855 recommending a singer who was visiting St Petersburg, though the brief note makes no mention of any hopes on Berlioz’s part to visit Russia again (CG no. 2021, 15 September 1855). There is then a long gap in the record. Early in 1863 Berlioz made a complimentary reference to Lvov’s opera Ondine which he had praised years earlier (Journal des Débats, 13 January 1863; cf. CG nos. 1112, 1170, 1379). Later in that year he was very touched to receive a letter of congratulations from Lvov on the occasion of the first performances of Les Troyens in Paris in November 1863, though also very upset at the news that Lvov had been afflicted with deafness (CG no. 2808). In the last known letter of Lvov to Berlioz, Lvov informed Berlioz that he had given up music altogether because of his ailment (CG no. 3233, 6 April 1867). Before he left for his second trip to Russia Berlioz implied that he might be seeing Lvov again during his stay there (CG no. 3303); it is now known from two letters of Berlioz to Lvov in January 1868 that the two men were able to meet again several times (CG nos. 3329bis and 3329ter in NL pp. 663, 664). In the first of these two letters Berlioz mentions that he performed Lvov’s Hymn for the Tsars at his first concert in Moscow; in the second letter he congratulates Lvov on his setting of the Stabat mater which Lvov had lent him.
Odoievsky, Prince Vladimir (1801-1869; portrait), a wealthy amateur musician and writer who, like his junior Stasov, supported both native Russian composers such as Glinka (Glinka, pp. 96 n. 3, 101, 107, 118, 228) or Dargomïzhsky (Stasov, p. 75), and foreign composers such as Liszt in 1842 (Glinka, p. 163; Stasov, pp. 129, 135) and Berlioz in 1847 (Stasov, pp. 131, 149-52, 155). Fouque cites at length two enthusiastic and perceptive articles published by Odoievsky in 1847 in celebration of Berlioz’s visit (Fouque, pp. 196-9 and 199-205). Berlioz met the prince soon after his arrival, as shown by a letter in which Berlioz included a detailed biographical note about himself for use in the St Petersburg press (CG no. 1097 [see vol. VIII for the original text]). But from the silence in the rest of his correspondence and in his other writings it does not appear that Berlioz developed any close relationship with him subsequently, which may surprise. Odoievsky is not mentioned in any of the extant letters of 1867-8, though it is known that he delivered a speech welcoming Berlioz to a reception at the Moscow Conservatoire in January 1868. A number of letters of Berlioz to the prince, 6 in all, dating supposedly from 1868 and 1869, the very end of Berlioz’s life, were published in Russia in 1937 and 1968-9, but their authenticity is highly questionable (see Richard Macnutt on this site). The silence of Stasov, who knew intimately the Russian musical scene, is a strong negative argument (cf. Stasov, p. 169 which indicates that CG no. 3373 of August 1868 is the last letter of Berlioz known to Stasov).
Romberg, Heinrich (1802-1859). Romberg came from a family of German musicians, to which Berlioz devoted part of one of his feuilletons in the Journal des Débats (24 August 1851). Like many other German musicians Romberg studied at the Conservatoire in Paris until 1825 in the violin class of Baillot; he may well have met Berlioz then, though Berlioz does not specify this. He then left for St Petersburg where he stayed for 20 years, starting in 1827 as leader of the orchestra of the Imperial Theatre and becoming later conductor of the Italian Opera. What brought him to Berlioz’s notice was the performance he conducted in May 1841 of the Requiem in St Petersburg; it is not known what prompted this remarkably ambitious undertaking (Berlioz was not involved), though Romberg clearly enjoyed significant support and financial backing from the Russian aristocracy. When Berlioz came to St Petersburg in 1847 Romberg was very supportive; this is mentioned by Berlioz in his Memoirs (chapter 55), and in the article of 1851 on the Romberg family he went out of his way to express his appreciation (cf. also CG no. 1135). According to Berlioz Romberg had many enemies among the musicians of St Petersburg, which Berlioz interpreted as a reflection of the strict standards he insisted on. Not long after Berlioz’s visit, in the autumn of 1847, Romberg in fact left St Petersburg, perhaps as a consequence of this hostility (CG no. 1134bis), and retired to Hamburg.
Stasov, Vladimir (1824-1906; portrait), Russian writer and critic, promoter of the well-known group of five Russian composers (Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov), and one of Berlioz’s most energetic champions. Stasov’s relations with Berlioz may be considered under two headings: first, his relations at the personal level from 1847 to 1868, which only started to become close at the end of Berlioz’s life; and second, his work as critic and champion of Berlioz, where his influence was extensive and stretched over a long period, during Berlioz’s lifetime and after his death. Altogether Stasov did perhaps as much as any of his contemporaries, Liszt excepted, to promote Berlioz.
1. Personal relations. Berlioz and Stasov first met in St Petersburg in 1847 during Berlioz’s first trip to Russia, at a time when Stasov was still a young man. It was in fact in 1847 that Stasov published his first critical work, in a review of the musical season in St Petersburg which contains his first published comments on Berlioz and his music (see below). There is no record of their meeting in Berlioz’s own writings (Stasov’s name does not appear in the Memoirs or in any of Berlioz’s critical works), and the story is known only from Stasov’s later recollections, as recorded by Fouque in 1882 and by Stasov himself in 1889 (Stasov, pp. 161-2). They both quote a letter of Berlioz written in a hurry on 22/10 May 1847, the day of his departure from St Petersburg (CG no. 1111). Although the name of the recipient is not preserved, it can only be Stasov, since that is what Stasov himself related. Stasov had requested permission to copy the score of some pieces by Berlioz, and had also asked a question about the use of the organ with the orchestra. Berlioz was unable to accede to the request, since he needed the music, and on the second point suggested that in religious music the organ could be used effectively in opposition to the orchestra but not simultaneously (as Berlioz was soon to do in his own Te Deum). There was no further contact between the two men for years to come, and Stasov was away from Russia between 1851 and 1854 while in the service of Prince Demidov as his secretary. After his return to St Petersburg Stasov began in the mid and late 1850s to encourage the formation of a group of young Russian composers, at first Balakirev, then Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin: they all shared among other things a common admiration for Berlioz, whose published works they studied with great care.
This is the background to the next recorded meeting of Berlioz and Stasov, which took place in Paris in September 1862. Stasov, who had been working for the Imperial Public Library in St Petersburg since 1854, approached Berlioz with a view to securing for the library an autograph manuscript of one of his major works, and suggested the Te Deum, for which the Russian admirers of Berlioz, led by Balakirev, had developed a special fondness. Berlioz was happy to oblige, to the great joy of the Russians (CG nos. 2650, 2676, 2676bis; cf. 3375). In his letter of thanks to Berlioz Stasov pointedly drew attention to ‘young musical Russia here, in other words the small circle of those who genuinely appreciate the music of the present and your immense talent’, a clear reference to Wagner and the ‘music of the future’, and an indication of his awareness of Berlioz’s attitude to Wagner (CG no. 2676). Stasov himself was hostile to Wagner and his music (cf. CG no. 3375 and Stasov, pp. 38-51, 79-80, 85-90, 94). There is no further mention of Stasov in Berlioz’s extant correspondence until he arrived in St Petersburg in November 1867: Stasov was not as yet among Berlioz’s circle of friends (cf. CG no. 3303). Extant from the time of his stay is an invitation of Berlioz to Stasov to a dinner for a select group of musicians held at the Mikhailovski Palace on 24/12 November (CG no. 3306). Stasov’s own recollections are an important source for Berlioz’s stay in St Petersburg, and it was then that their relations started to become close (Stasov, pp. 161-9). But it was only after Berlioz’s return to Paris that their correspondence began to develop. The few preserved letters indicate a growing warmth between the two men in the course of 1868, and Stasov felt emboldened in his last letter to question Berlioz’s decision, taken as far back as 1864 (cf. Memoirs, Postface; CG no. 2857), to give up composition altogether (CG nos. 3346, 3356, 3373, 3375). But it was too late: Berlioz’s letter of August 1868 (CG no. 3373) was the last one he wrote to Stasov, and he had only a few more months to live.
2. Stasov the critic and champion of Berlioz. Paradoxically perhaps for a champion of Berlioz, Stasov as a critic differed from him in many ways in his style and outlook. Two particular characteristics may be singled out. Berlioz as a critic was usually objective, whatever the strength of his likes and dislikes, and he preferred irony to invective as his weapon of choice. Stasov on the other hand was by nature polemical and partisan in expressing his views, and liable to allow his temperament to get in the way of his judgement. Like Berlioz, he was opposed to the musical establishment of his day, but did so with less discrimination. For example, he included Count Wielhorsky and Lvov in the same blanket condemnation (Stasov, pp. 145-6, 192), whereas Berlioz had no difficulty in developing a genuinely warm and appreciative relationship with the latter. Stasov opposed the very idea of a Conservatoire of music, which he regarded as a bastion of conservatism (Stasov, pp. 81-4): ‘The conservatories have not furthered our musical culture; they have merely produced a tremendous number of musical artisans who have little to do with art, are infected with conservatory tastes and have a very poor understanding of music’ (Stasov, pp. 83-4). In Stasov’s view, one of the merits of Balakirev and the other members of the group of five was that they were self-made and had not gone through the St Petersburg Conservatoire (Stasov, pp. 92-3), and conversely Tchaikovsky’s music suffered precisely because he had (Stasov, pp. 111-12). Berlioz, whatever his own experiences in Paris, had a more nuanced view of the role of a Conservatoire (see for example his comments on Prague). It is noticeable that when mentioning to Berlioz the foundation of the St Petersburg Conservatoire Stasov was careful not to give voice to his own reservations (CG no. 2676).
Stasov’s attitude to the institution of the Conservatoire leads to his second characteristic, his fierce Russian nationalism. ‘Most deplorable of all is the fact that our conservatories have turned out to be purely foreign institutions – German. Within their walls Russian music, the Russian school, the Russian trend are never mentioned, and hundreds of young men and women are being taught to worship only what is worshipped at the conservatories in Leipzig and Berlin’ (Stasov, p. 84). Stasov’s overriding aim was to further the development of a truly national school of distinctly Russian composers, following in the footsteps of Glinka, whom he met in 1849 and who greatly appreciated Stasov (Glinka, p. 218: ‘an exceptionally well-grounded musician, a lover of the fine arts, and in general a highly cultivated person’). Stasov’s views are most fully developed in the chapter entitled ‘Twenty-five Years of Russian Art: Our Music’ where he reviews the progress of Russian music from Glinka to the early 1880s (pp. 66-116). His attitude to non-Russian composers was conditioned in part by his Russian nationalism. Stasov is quite open about his reasons for admiring Berlioz and Liszt: ‘We cherish Berlioz not only because he was a composer of genius, the direct successor to Beethoven and the creator of a new type of music, programme music; not only because all his life he was a vigorous fighter for a just cause; but also because, together with Liszt, he was the first to recognise the Russian school of music, beginning with its leader and founder, Glinka’ (Stasov, pp. 57-8). With this approach one may compare the international outlook of Berlioz, who wondered why he had been born in France (Memoirs, chapter 25), proclaimed himself a composer ‘three-quarters German’, declared Gluck, Beethoven and Weber to be his idols, together with the Italian Spontini, and in his speech at Strasbourg in June 1863 celebrated the influence of music which caused ‘national animosities to disappear’. Had Berlioz lived long enough to become closer to Stasov, one may wonder whether the deep differences between them could have been permanently kept below the surface.
Of Stasov’s published writings three articles are devoted in part or in whole to Berlioz: his first article entitled ‘Review of the Musical Events of the Year 1847’ and published in that year (Stasov, pp. 15-37; 23-30 on Berlioz), his review of Daniel Bernard, Correspondance inédite de Berlioz, published in 1879 (Stasov, pp. 52-61), and the study ‘Liszt, Schumann and Berlioz in Russia’, published in 1889 and revised in 1896 (Stasov, pp. 117-94; 146-69 on Berlioz). Stasov had already started to study Berlioz even before Berlioz’s first visit in 1847, as the questions he put to him show (see above on CG no. 1111). He was prepared to be impressed, but in his first article he drew an artificial distinction between Berlioz the conductor and orchestrator on the one hand, and Berlioz the composer on the other: ‘Before anything else, we must state that Berlioz’s works are utterly devoid of music; he has no gift for musical composition whatsoever. On the other hand, he is enormously gifted as a performer; his talent in this regard is fully on a level with the amazing talent of Liszt. Indeed, these two men are strikingly alike in every respect’ (Stasov, p. 24). All the same Stasov was fascinated by what he heard and had the highest expectations for the future: ‘All future music will be linked in the closest and most indissoluble way to the Columbus-like discoveries and undertakings of Liszt and Berlioz’ (Stasov, p. 29). Stasov later moved away from the rigid distinction he had initially drawn, though his published writings do not make it possible to trace the evolution of his views. By the late 1850s, if not earlier, he was thoroughly convinced of Berlioz’s greatness as a composer, as his correspondence with Berlioz in 1862 over the Te Deum shows (CG nos. 2650, 2676). The next article, dated 1879, reviews the first volume of Berlioz’s correspondence published after the composer’s death; it shows Stasov as a thorough-going champion of Berlioz, who defends his personal integrity and truthfulness, and only finds fault with Berlioz’s anti-republican views and support for the autocracy of the Napoleons (Stasov, pp. 53-4, cf. 157). The third article, the most valuable of the three, gives a detailed and documented account of Berlioz’s relations with Russia over his whole career; although new information has since come to light it retains its value to this day, as does the essay of 1882 by Fouque, which drew partly on material supplied by Stasov. In this third study Stasov, with years of reflection behind him, was able to modify the views he had expressed in 1847 (Stasov, p. 154), and to add the important observation that while in 1847 Berlioz’s initial influence on the Russian musical scene was slight, it laid seeds for the future that blossomed with the younger generation of Russian composers: ‘The great, the predominant qualities in the music of these composers – imagination, fire, depth of feeling, matchless poetry and descriptiveness – made our young musicians overlook [the] shortcomings [of these composers]. It is doubtful whether even the most ardent compatriots of Berlioz, Schumann and Liszt valued them as highly as this little group of young Russians did. It should be noted, however, that in this they stood alone’ (Stasov, p. 160). For his account of Berlioz’s second visit Stasov was able to provide first hand evidence: he will have been prominent among the ‘friends who come to see me, who have for my music a passion which looks very much like fanaticism’, as Berlioz put it in a letter (CG no. 3332). Stasov concludes his account thus: ‘Berlioz’ closest, most intimate relationships, on his second visit to Russia, were almost exclusively with the composers of the new Russian school. These young people appreciated his genius and understood his importance more than any of their countrymen. That is why his influence on them was so powerful and so profound’ (Stasov, p. 169).
Tajan-Rogé, Dominique (ca. 1803-1878), cellist and writer whom Berlioz had met in Paris years before his first trip to Russia. In 1847 Tajan-Rogé was playing in the imperial orchestra in St Petersburg, and Berlioz praises him in the Memoirs for the excellent support he gave in the preparation of concerts (chapter 55; cf. CG no. 1114). Some months after this Tajan-Rogé wrote to Berlioz, now in London; his letter has not survived but Berlioz’s very detailed reply has (CG no. 1135). As well as giving general news Berlioz confided to Tajan-Rogé the story of his idyll in St Petersburg with a Russian chorister, which apparently he had not mentioned to anyone else, and asked Tajan-Rogé to make discreet enquiries about the lady and forward a letter Berlioz had written to her. Tajan-Rogé’s very long reply is preserved (CG no. 1147): he carried out the commission, and in his turn forwarded a letter from the chorister to Berlioz, the contents of which are not known. He then went on to rebuke Berlioz for his self-conscious attitude to the chorister because of her modest social status… Nothing further is known of the episode. Tajan-Rogé eventually left St Petersburg where he was not happy (CG nos. 1114, 1135), but he and Berlioz remained in touch. He was in Paris in 1850 and 1851 and was a member of the Société Philharmonique which Berlioz founded in January 1850. On 18 March 1850 Berlioz proposed him as member of the committee of the society, on which he became very active, as can be seen from the minutes of the meetings of the committee. It was he, for example, who proposed at a meeting on 20 April 1850 that Berlioz’s Requiem should be performed at a ceremony at Saint-Eustache on 3 May in honour of the families of victims of a catastrophe which had taken place at Angers. In 1852 Berlioz secured his appointment in the orchestra of the Queen’s Theatre in London (CG no. 1457bis [in vol. VIII]); in 1855 Tajan-Rogé was in New Orleans (CG no. 1905) and in 1857 Berlioz mentioned his presence in New York (Journal des Débats, 26 April 1857). The extant letters shed no further light on their time together in St Petersburg.
Wielhorsky, Count Mikhail (1788-1856) and his younger brother Count Matvey Wielhorsky (1794-1866), both of them born in St Petersburg and resident in the same house, were amateur musicians and influential patrons of the arts over a period of many years. As Berlioz put it in flattering terms (Memoirs, chapter 55), ‘their house in St Petersburg is a small ministry of fine-arts, thanks to the authority conferred on them by their deservedly renowned good taste, the influence exercised by their great wealth and their numerous relations, and thanks finally to the official position they hold at court with the Emperor and the Empress’. Of the two the elder brother, himself a composer, was more prominent and socially active, and attracted more attention; the younger brother was an accomplished cellist who performed abroad as well as in Russia (‘an amateur whose rare talent deprives many professionals of sleep’, wrote Berlioz in 1856). Count Mikhail had patronised music actively for years before Berlioz’s visit of 1847. He was initially supportive of Glinka, whom he had met early (Glinka, p. 45) and facilitated the production of his opera A Life for the Tsar in 1836; Glinka was even prepared to listen to his suggestions about the work (Glinka, pp. 100, 102-3). But the Count was critical of Glinka’s next opera Ruslan and Ludmila and in 1843 disparaged the work in Liszt’s presence, to Glinka’s understandable annoyance (Glinka, pp. 171, 176). Other composers and players enjoyed the Count’s patronage. He was present in Rome in 1839 at the same time as Liszt and arranged a concert by him (Stasov, p. 119), and together with his brother entertained Liszt during his visits of 1842 and 1843 to St Petersburg (Stasov, pp. 120, 129). They did the same for Schumann in 1844 (Stasov, pp. 143-4).
The Count was briefly in Paris in 1844 at the same time as Glinka himself (Glinka, p. 188), though it is not known whether he and Berlioz met on this occasion. At any rate Berlioz had been made aware of his influence in St Petersburg before he set out for his Russian trip in February 1847 and wrote to him in advance (CG nos. 1091, 1095). In his Memoirs Berlioz gives warm praise to the hospitality he had received from the two brothers (chapter 55, cf. CG no. 1240); elsewhere he mentions Count Mikhail’s reminiscences about performances of Beethoven symphonies he witnessed in Vienna during Beethoven’s lifetime (Travels to Germany II, Letter II; Journal des Débats, 13 February 1861).
After his departure from St Petersburg Berlioz was evidently anxious to maintain contacts with Count Mikhail, to whom he wrote a detailed letter about his stay in Riga in May 1847 (CG no. 1113). He received no reply, and despite his reluctance to appear too insistent (cf. CG no. 1170), wrote again the following year with detailed news of his activities (CG no. 1240). Again, it seems Berlioz received no reply (cf. CG no. 1379). The only other known contact between them comes from a letter of 1855 in which Berlioz recommended to the Count a singer who was travelling to St Petersburg (CG no. 2022, cf. 2021). Mikhail’s younger brother the cellist receives occasional mention in Berlioz’s writings: he was present at the Prussian court in Berlin in June 1847 when Berlioz performed his Damnation of Faust (Memoirs, Sequel to the trip to Russia), then is found in Paris giving concerts in December 1856 (Journal des Débats, 19 December 1856), and again in November 1858 (cf. CG no. 2440).
It is perhaps no accident that the good relations established by Berlioz in 1847 with Count Mikhail failed to develop subsequently, unlike those with General Lvov. The social gulf between them was one difficulty (cf. CG no. 1170), though Berlioz did have at other times friendly relations with other cultured aristocrats (for example the King and Queen of Hanover or the ducal family of Weimar). But another obstacle was probably musical: the Count had his own ambitions as a composer, as Glinka found out, yet was probably out of his depth when it came to Berlioz – in 1847 he confided to Berlioz that he could not make sense of the Roman Carnivaloverture… (Memoirs, chapter 56; echoed by Balakirev in CG no. 3374). Dispensing generous hospitality to distinguished foreign visitors in St Petersburg was one thing, actively promoting their music was another. In fact Stasov was later very critical of the Count’s artistic conservatism and musical judgement, citing his failure to appreciate at their true worth Stasov’s own idols, Glinka, Schumann, Liszt, and Berlioz himself (Stasov, pp. 131, 135-6, 145-6, 156: ‘What a difference there is between a great musician and an insignificant amateur!’).
Selected letters of Berlioz and others
The following selection of translated letters relates specifically to the persons mentioned in this page. A full chronological listing of all the letters of relevance to Berlioz and Russia that are cited on other Russia-related pages will be found in the home page Berlioz and Russia.
All translations are © Michel Austin and Monir Tayeb.
Note on chronology: whereas western Europe followed the Gregorian calendar (first introduced in 1582), Russia continued until 1918 to use the Julian, which was 12 days behind. Accordingly, for letters written in Russia, whether by Berlioz himself or by his correspondents, dates have been given in two forms: the first is the more common Gregorian date, and the second is the Julian.
To Mikhail Glinka (CG no. 953; 25 March, from Paris):
It is not enough for me to perform your music and to say to many people that it is fresh, lively, and delightful in its verve and originality. I must give myself the pleasure of writing a few columns on this subject, all the more so as it is my duty. Am I not expected to tell the public about all the most remarkable things of this kind that are going on in Paris? So please give me a few notes about yourself, your earliest studies, the musical institutions of Russia, your works, and after studying with you your score to get a less imperfect idea of it I will be able to do something bearable and give to the readers of the Débats an approximate idea of your high eminence. I am dreadfully harassed by these damned concerts, by the pretensions of the musicians, etc., but I should find the time to write an article on a subject of this kind, and it is not often that I have one as interesting as this.
Glinka to N. Kukolnik (cited by Stasov, p. 147; 6 April, from Paris):
[…] Chance has brought me into contact with several nice people, and in Paris, I have found not many, but sincere and gifted friends. Certainly, for me the most wonderful thing that has happened has been meeting Berlioz. One of my purposes in coming here was to study his works, which are so denounced by some and so extolled by others, and I have had the good fortune to do this. Not only have I heard Berlioz’ music in concert and rehearsal, but I have also grown close to this man who, in my opinion, is the foremost composer of our century (in his own province, of course) – as close, that is, as one can to an extremely eccentric man. And this is what I think: in the realm of fantastic music, no one has ever approached his colossal and, at the same time, ever new conceptions. In sum, the development of details, logic, harmonic texture and finally, powerful and continually new orchestration – this is what constitutes the character of Berlioz’s music. When it comes to drama, he is so carried away by the fantastic aspect of a situation, that he becomes unnatural and consequently untrue. Of the works I have heard, the Overture to Les Francs-Juges, the March of the Pilgrims from Harold in Italy, the Queen Mab Scherzo, and the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum from the Requiem have made an indescribable impression on me. At present, I have a number of Berlioz’ unpublished manuscripts and I am studying them with inexpressible delight. […]
Glinka to N. Kukolnik (cited by Stasov, p. 158; no exact date, from Paris):
[…] The study of Berlioz’ music and the tastes of the Parisian public has had extremely important consequences for me. I have decided to enrich my repertoire with a few and, my strength permitting, many concert pieces for orchestra to be called Fantaisies pittoresques. It seems to me that it ought to be possible to reconcile the demands of art with those of our time and, by taking advantage of the improvements in instruments and performance, to write pieces equally accessible to connoisseurs and the general public. […]
To General Lvov (CG no. 986; 1 August, from Paris):
Please accept my most sincere thanks for all the kind things that you said in your letter; I cannot say how much I am flattered by your unhoped-for support and I would be very happy to be able to earn new claims to your enlightened esteem. It is beyond doubt that without the presence of the author and his immediate effect on the performers, certain works are more or less altered in performance. It also seems obvious to me that these changes are always to their disadvantage. That is why I have a keen desire to take advantage of the free time I have created for myself this winter by visiting St Petersburg. M. De Glinka has greatly encouraged me to carry out this project, similarly Leopold de Meyer, and a few other people who are very familiar with the musical habits of Russia have shared their opinion. I will then appeal to your kindness and your powerful patronage, and I would be most obliged if on receipt of this letter you would kindly write me a few lines about the main difficulties to be faced in St Petersburg during November and December, or later if there is need to wait a little.
It is difficult to make a sound assessment of such matters from a distance, and it is such a tiring and important journey, that advice such as yours would be of inestimable value for me. […]
If I am able to read your work, I will study it with great interest, but I have no more faith than you in piano reductions of orchestral music, and before publishing in my feuilleton an opinion on a work of such importance I will wait till I have been able to hear it, or to study it in full score with you. That is the only way I could gain an accurate and complete idea of it. The same thing happened with M. De Glinka; after hearing him play on the piano a few fragments from his operas I was very far from having the opinion of them I later formed by having them played at my concerts at the Cirque. Translators are all traitors, and the Italian proverb is only too true, but the piano is the most detestable of traitors. I hope I will make ample amends for this during my stay in St Petersburg. […]
To Vladimir Stasov (?) (CG no. 1111; 22/10 May, in St Petersburg)
I have only time to write a few lines in reply; I am leaving later today. I cannot possibly do without my scores, as I am going to Germany where I need them for my concerts. On the question of the organ, it can be used to good effect in certain cases of religious music by dialoguing with the orchestra, but I do not believe that it can be effective if used simultaneously with it. […]
See Fouque for the French text
To General Lvov in St Petersburg (CG no. 1112; 28/16 May, from Riga):
A thousand thanks, dear General, for the excellent recommendations you are sending me. I have already made use of them, and the family of the governor welcomed me like one of your friends. We are busy preparing with the concert, the success of which is in the lap of the gods. While waiting for my rehearsal which starts in an hour I must tell you again how struck I was with the beautiful things which your latest score contains in abundance. The subject of Ondine has inspired you to perfection, and the harmonic and melodic style of this great work shines as much through its truthfulness and expression as through its unfailing distinction and a youthful freshness that is rare nowadays. The overture is among the most felicitous inventions I know of, with its syncopated rhythmic effects which made me leap with joy. The first chorus, the aria of Ondine with its delightful colouring, the first finale, so direct and warm, the prayer with violin accompaniment, the splendid piece of the festivities, the second finale, the march, and so many other passages I might cite, attest to an inventiveness, taste and technique of the first order, and place you very high among present-day composers.
But to be frank, I was sure of this even before hearing your music: when someone loves and respects music as you do, talks about it as you do, and has your practical experience of the art, one cannot but compose like this. All this fits together. But it also a source of sadness, when one reflects of the means of performance which are becoming ever more difficult to find. And I do not know whether the Englishman who in one of our restaurants asked for a tenor or a melon as dessert was right to leave the choice to the waiter; I would always go for the melon, as it gives you a far better chance of avoiding a stomach upset: the vegetable is far less harmful than the animal.
Farewell, dear master, believe in my warm friendship and in all the joy I feel in having inspired in you a little of the same feeling. […]
To Count Mikhail Wielhorski (CG no. 1113; 1st June/20 May, from Riga):
See Riga, and Fouque for the full French text
General Lvov to Berlioz (CG no. 1134bis [vol. VIII]; 7 November, from St Petersburg):
[…] Since your departure I take pleasure in recollecting those few moments we spent together in my study, — we understood each other so well, — it is so rare to meet like-minded people — it would be too painful for me to think that this small incident could cool down your friendship for me! — Please write to me a few words to put my mind at rest. —
The Grand-Duke has been back for nearly a month. […] I took advantage of an opportunity to speak a great deal about you to Her Majesty the Empress, and described to Her what benefit to art and the economy would result from your employment in St Petersburg; I said everything, dear master, that duty and my friendship for you could inspire, — now I will have to speak to the Grand-Duke concerning vocal music in churches and the organisation of a school to train chorus masters, so that Russian church music is performed correctly and in a uniform way. On that occasion I would speak to Him about you, — I must speak, because I love truth, — I love music, — I love Berlioz’s great merits, — I love Berlioz himself. —
If you write to me, I will keep you informed of what is happening here: — Romberg has left, — it is painful to see how pleased all his colleagues are at this. — And that after staying 20 years in St Petersburg! […] (personal worries; his wife is unwell; he would like to see Berlioz) — […] I will find you everywhere, because to see you, talk with you, and hear your compositions is for me a source of extreme delight. — […]
To Dominique Tajan-Rogé in St Petersburg (CG no. 1135; 10 November, from London):
TARUSKIN, RICHARD (1945– ), U.S. musicologist and critic born in New York. He graduated from Columbia University with the M.A. thesis "Vladimir Vasilievich Stasov: Functionary in Art" (1968). He studied at the Moscow State Conservatory (1972) and continued his Russian studies, receiving a Ph.D. in 1975. He published thereafter articles and books on Russian music, including Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced in the 1860s (1981; 19932); Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (1992); Stravinsky and the RussianTradition: A Biography of Works through Mavra (1996); and Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays (1997). He developed parallel studies in the history of Western music and wrote a masterwork in six volumes, The Oxford History of Western Music (2004), in which he focused on the history of musical culture rather than on the selected classic repertoire as the traditional German concept taught. In his other activity as performer he was a choral conductor (director of the Columbia University Collegium Musicum and Cappella Nova) as well as viola da gamba soloist. He also recorded and edited numerous compositions of early and Renaissance music and wrote critical essays collected in his book Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (1995). His teaching career developed first at Columbia University (from 1973 to 1987), then at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was appointed professor of music in 1997. Taruskin was a constant contributor to the New York Times, New Republic, Opus, Atlantic Monthly, and Opera News. His phenomenal erudition, consistent historical thinking, and writer's gift made him unrivaled in the musicology of our time. He was awarded the Greenberg Prize (1978); the Alfred Einstein Award (1980), the Dent Medal (1987), and the Kinkeldey Prize (1997). He was a member of the American Philosophical Society.
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