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Works by Wagner , Berlioz , and Liszt are almost never played there. It is only in very recent years that those who are in charge of this musical institution have started making some tentative concessions to the spirit of the age, and it is precisely to these concessions that the invitation I quite unexpectedly received to come to Leipzig in order to conduct one of my works belongs. In Germany and here in Russia this invitation came as quite a surprise, especially in Germany, where very many people regard me as a representative of the ultra-revolutionary musical party just as unfoundedly as here I am often bracketed with the musical reactionaries.

It is very probable that my friend A. Brodsky had a hand in this, especially since he commands great influence in Leipzig , but still the initiative in this case definitely belonged to Mr N. Be that as it may, I sincerely confess that the fact that my music had been allowed onto the programme of a Gewandhaus concert was very flattering for my self-esteem as an author, and that I was extremely glad to begin my artistic itinerary precisely in Leipzig , as this was likely to bolster considerably my reputation in Germany.

However, the more I was able to take pride in the attention bestowed upon me by the Gewandhaus directors, the stronger was my desire to prove a worthy ambassador for Russian music abroad, and of course the more painfully I was tormented by that fear which is characteristic of shy people—namely, the fear of " making a fool of oneself ".

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After a sleepless night in which I had been beset by all kinds of misgivings—in particular, that my shyness would prevent me from rising to the occasion and acquitting myself as a decent conductor—I headed for the rehearsal, together with A. As we were walking through the entrance of the Gewandhaus, we ran into the venerable music director Herr Reinecke , who was also rushing to the rehearsal, in order to present me to the orchestra. Reinecke enjoys in Germany and indeed in all Europe the reputation of being an outstanding musician, a talented composer of the Mendelssohnian school, and an experienced conductor of the renowned Leipzig concerts, who has succeeded with great dignity, albeit without any particular brilliance, in sustaining the world-fame of the latter.

I say "without any particular brilliance" because many people in Germany deny that Herr Reinecke has any gifts as a conductor, and would like to see him replaced by a more passionate musician, with a more resolute and stronger character. However that may be, there is no doubt that Herr Reinecke is one of the most influential and prominent figures in the German music world, and that, even if there are quite a few Wagnerians, Lisztians, Brahmsians, and other progressives of all shades who are not overly fond of Herr Reinecke , nobody can begrudge this gifted and conscientious musician the respect which he deserves.

I, too, had long since felt such respect towards Herr Reinecke , and for that reason I greatly valued the extraordinary consideration and kindness which he showed me from the very start, during that special concert the day before, and which he would continue to bestow on me during my whole stay in Leipzig. After the usher had come and told us that all the musicians were assembled, we left the dressing-room and made our way to the podium. Herr Reinecke led me up to the conductor's rostrum, tapped his baton, and said some words of welcome, to which the musicians replied by clapping their hands and tapping their bows on the music stands.

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Then he handed me the stick and withdrew to a chair in the auditorium; I took my place on the rostrum, said a few, probably very mangled, words of thanks in German, and the rehearsal began. We were playing my First Suite , which is made up of five movements [46] , the first of these Introduzione e Fuga being generally considered to be one of my most successful compositions. The first quarter of an hour at one's first rehearsal, when one hasn't yet had time to get used to the unfamiliar faces of the musicians, is terribly agonizing—at least for such a shy and inexperienced conductor as I am.

It is only after the first interruption, after the first comments you have to make in order to clear up some misunderstanding—in short, once you have come into closer contact with the members of the orchestra, that all this anxiety goes away, and all that remains is your concern to ensure that the task in hand is carried out as well as possible.

After the first movement of the suite I could see from the eyes and smiles on the faces in front of me that many of the musicians had already become my friends. After that all traces of my shyness vanished altogether, and the whole rehearsal went extremely well. By the end I was completely convinced that I was dealing with an orchestra of an exceptionally high calibre.

Messrs C. Reinecke and Brahms were present at the rehearsal. When we greeted one another afterwards, Brahms did not say a single encouraging remark, but, as I was told later, he had been very pleased with the first movement. The others, however, had not been to his liking, especially the fourth movement Marche miniature. The next rehearsal was already the full rehearsal. In Leipzig it is the custom to allow the public to attend these full rehearsals.


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Those who come to the latter are drawn mainly from the student population, who are as fiery, ardent, and generous in their manifestations of approval as the audience at the actual concerts is frosty, austere, and chary of applause. The suite and its author were rewarded by those attending the rehearsal with stormy applause and repeated calls for the latter, and it is quite possible that for this I am principally obliged to the presence of many Russian philology students in the hall who certainly did not stint their expressions of sympathy for a composer from their home country.

Be that as may be, I was very satisfied with this success, and when I got back home my delight was intensified further still on finding a card from Grieg. It turned out that straight after the rehearsal he had rushed to my hotel and left a few lines for me in which he conveyed the impression my suite had made on him in such fervently enthusiastic terms that I hesitate to repeat them here for my readers. Sincere recognition from such a colleague of genius as Grieg is the most precious joy that can fall to the lot of an artist [47].

The actual concert took place the following day [48]. Brodsky had warned me to expect a frosty reception from the part of the audience, and so I was not surprised or hurt when not a single hand was clapped as I walked out onto the podium and my bow was met with deathly silence. However, after the first movement of the suite there was a burst of lively applause, which was repeated at more or less the same intensity after each other movement, and at the end I was called for twice, which in the Gewandhaus is considered to be a sign of great success.

After the concert I was invited to Herr Reinecke 's house to have dinner. His family and he himself treated me kindly and affectionately in all kinds of ways. Herr C. Reinecke , who, by the way, has a splendid command of French, proved to be an extremely nice and agreeable person to talk to. In his youth he had been close to Schumann , and he told me about many episodes from the life of the great German master. Schumann 's was a truly melancholic nature, and it was clear from the start that his innate melancholy would develop into hypochondria and madness, which is of course what actually happened in the end.

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His taciturnity was astonishing—one had the impression that every word cost him an extraordinary effort. Another striking feature in Schumann 's musical constitution was that he was quite incapable of conducting. Indeed, Herr Reinecke told me some anecdotes which clearly show that Schumann even had trouble distinguishing properly the timbres of the various instruments that make up an orchestra, and that the feeling for rhythm which is so essential for a conductor was quite under-developed in him.

How difficult it is to make sense of this anomaly in a musician who, judging by his compositions, was so inventive precisely with regard to rhythm! At Herr Reinecke 's house I also made the acquaintance of the French composer Gouvy [49] , who always spent the winter months in Leipzig. Gouvy has become completely Germanized: he speaks German perfectly, has a somewhat hostile attitude to his own fatherland insofar as music is concerned, of course , and on the whole he makes quite a lamentable impression as someone who considers himself disappointed, injured, offended, and unrecognized by his fellow-countrymen, and who is therefore inclined to exaggerate the merits of other nations.

It is quite possible that M. Gouvy does indeed have sufficient grounds to complain about music in France, but it did feel rather awkward to listen to his eulogies of everything German at the expense of France. I had never come across such a Frenchman before Just as the new Gewandhaus is beautiful, majestic, spacious, and elegant, so the old one is small, uncomfortable, and even seems to be a bit dirty. But on the other hand this concert hall and especially the small dressing-room, which is adjacent to it, do have the status of being a kind of shrine of German art, and I was overcome by a pious tremor when, sitting in this dressing-room, I recalled that these walls had so often looked down on Mendelssohn , Schumann , and so many other great artists who in the course of decades past had appeared on the podium of the Gewandhaus.

The concert took place in the morning and its programme consisted solely of my own compositions [51]. In contrast to the Gewandhaus, the Liszt Society concentrates its activities exclusively on contemporary music. It has only been around for two years, yet it already has its own quite numerous regular public, which on this occasion packed the hall, not leaving a single free chair. In the ranks of the Society's full members we find numerous admirers of Liszt , for the greater part young, energetic people with much talent, and one has the impression that in the course of time, provided that it continues to be run sensibly, this Society is destined to become a serious rival for the Gewandhaus.

Amongst those figures who are most directly involved in ensuring that the " Liszt Society" continues to prosper, I should like to single out the talented music critic Martin Krause, the music publisher Fritsch [52] , the Hungarian music director of the Leipzig Opera Nikisch [53] , who is a genius, and our own A. Ziloti [ I had heard a lot about him from his fervent admirer A.

He plays this concerto everywhere, putting up with reproaches and mockery from the most authoritative music critics who taunt him for having made such a strange choice of work to specialize in. Undaunted, this brave artist tirelessly seeks to make my child of sorrow into a virtuoso repertoire piece at symphony concerts all over Germany. Their performance was exemplary.


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The quartet led by Herr Petri [56] the concert-master of the Gewandhaus gave a very fine account of my First String Quartet , and, apart from these two works, the programme also included several shorter pieces of mine. The Liszt Society's public is enthusiastic, fiery, and very generous in its applause, so that I certainly had no reason to complain about lack of the latter.

The directors of the Society presented me with a garland. During the whole concert I was sitting on the podium, in full view of the audience, with Grieg and his wife seated next to me. A very nice music critic called Fritsche told me later how a lady, pointing to the Griegs and me, had told her daughter: "Look, darling, that's Tchaikovsky, and next to him are his children!

After the concert I spent a few very agreeable hours at A. Ziloti 's house, together with his friends from the board of directors of the Liszt Society. We talked mainly about Russian music, and it was very gratifying for me to discover that all these gifted young people are very familiar with our music, and that they have the greatest affection for the names of Glinka , Balakirev , Rimsky-Korsakov , Borodin , and Glazunov.

They all especially love Balakirev 's Islamey [57] and consider it to be a work of genius, which by virtue of its originality is in a league of its own. I think that this artist, who possesses an astonishing beauty of tone, a tremendous technique, passion, brilliance, and strength, will very soon come to occupy first place amongst the violinists of our age. After these two so memorable days I stayed in Leipzig for a whole week, and subsequently I would return there twice, staying for a few days in each case.

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In order to conclude my reminiscences of Leipzig , I shall recount a few more interesting acquaintances I made, as well as some other noteworthy facts. The Leipzig Opera is proud of its young music-director Herr Nikisch , a conductor of genius and a specialist in Wagner 's late music dramas. The orchestra playing in the theatre is the same as in the Gewandhaus, that is absolutely first-rate, but no matter how faultless its performance is in the concerts conducted by C.

Reinecke , in order to get a real idea of the level of perfection which this orchestra can attain under the baton of a conductor of genius, it is necessary to have heard such an astonishing master in his profession as Herr Nikisch guide it through the difficult and intricate scores of Wagner operas. Just as the latter is lively, restless, and effective in his gestures, which often do rather catch the eye, so Herr Nikisch is gracefully calm, wary of any superfluous movements, but at the same time remarkably commanding, strong, and full of self-control.