Chapter 4, 16 September 1950

Title

Chapter 4, 16 September 1950

Subject

Nadia Boulanger

Creator

Igor Stravinsky

Date

16 September 1950

Source

Bibliothèque Nationale De Paris

Type

Letter

Extracted Text

Stravinsky to Boulanger
1260 North Wetherly Drive
Hollywood 46, California
Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger
36 rue Ballu
PARIS—9th (France)
September 16, 1950
My very dear Nadia,
Believe me that I am experiencing the same feelings and the same difficulties as you; I, too,
would like to be able to write to you at length just as I would like to be able to speak with you;
but I am so taken by my work that I must limit myself to matters of urgency like what you
provided me with in your letter of September 1, for which I thank you with all my heart.
Certainly long-shot projects are risky at this time but I am very favorable to the idea of seeing
Monte Carlo stage my Opera, because the theater lends itself particularly well to it, owing to its
limited dimensions which match the chamber character of my work: instrumentation resembles
Cosi fan tutte or Marriage of Figaro (double winds, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and
strings).
My enthusiasm for this Monte Carlo project is unfortunately not unadulterated. First of all, there
are the almost insurmountable difficulties of translating my work into French without mutilating
the vocal parts. All my work and its musical prosody are conceived of as a whole to highlight the
truly magnificent English text by Wystan Auden. You know as well as I do the impossible
difficulties of translating into French with regard to both Auden's brilliant poetry and my music,
which will inevitably undergo unforeseen changes to its structure.
As for my material interests, they go hand in hand with those of my editors at Boosey & Hawkes,
and it’s up to them to negotiate and make the decisions. Ralph Hawkes had these matters directly
within his control. Unfortunately, he just died unexpectedly eight days ago in New York, and I
am currently unaware of how the publishing house will be reorganized and who will look after
my affairs.
So that’s the situation.
I won’t talk to you about the French title because it has to be translated, like the names of the
characters, in keeping with the principal idea inherent to each character (their role in the work).
And for that, I doubt we can succeed without collaborating directly with Auden himself. (His
address is: Mr. Wystan Auden, 7 Cornelia Street, New York 14, N.Y.)
If I had on hand an available copy of the two acts of the opera already composed (350 pages), I
would send them to you right away. But all my copies are tied up because of the negotiations I
have ongoing here. The simplest [solution] would be to drop by Boosey & Hawkes (295 Regent
Street, London W.I.) during your next trip to London, where you can ask on my part for Mr.
Erwin Stein*) so you might acquaint yourself with the first two acts.
I am working ceaselessly in the hopes of finishing before the spring, but I don't know if I will
manage to do it.
Vera and I are doing well physically but morally are worried about the present and the future;
Hollywood. furthermore, is devoid of interest and California has changed a lot since you left
(**). The Sachses, who have just decided to return to France, will be able tell you what they
think of it.
As for Soulima [and his family], whom we have had little chance to see during his academic stay
in Santa Barbara where they were very busy, they are in the process of settling in Urbana
(Department of Music, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois).
The only consolation that remains for us here is that Milène and André are close by, as well as
the staunch Madubo.
Tomorrow and next week I have to welcome your two students.
I will ask the Sachses, whom I will see again in three days, to take you the recordings of my
Mass, because I suppose you still don't have them. I made this recording with the men's chorus
(children and adults) of a Catholic church in New York at the end of the first American concert
in New York. I am not saying that these children had ideal training but even so, I prefer their
timbre to that of women's voices, which are always too impassioned for liturgical song.
Don't forget me; even short letters from you always give me great pleasure.
Vera and I think of you very affectionately.
Your
I. Str.
*The editor
**even the climate
Stravinsky to Boulanger
1260 North Wetherly Drive
Hollywood 46, California
Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger
36 rue Ballu
PARIS—9eme
(France)
16 septembre 1950
Tres chere Nadia,
Croyez bien que j’eprouve les memes sentiments et les memes difficultes que vous ; moi aussi je
voudrais pouvoir vous ecrire longuement tout comme je voudrais pouvoir vous parler ; mais je
suis si pris par mon travail que je dois me limiter aux occasions imperatives comme celle que
vous me fournissez dans votre lettre du 1er
Septembre dont je vous remercie de tout cœur.
Certes les projets a longue chance sont bien hazardeux en l’epoque actuelle mais je suis tres
favorable a l’idee de voir Monte Carlo prendre mon Opera car le theatre s’y prete
particulierement bien en raison de ses dimensions limitees qui correspondent au caractere de
chambre de mon œuvre : instrumentation semblable a Cosi fan tutte ou aux Noces de Figaro
(bois par 2, 2 cors, 2 trompettes, timb. et strings).
Mon enthousiasme pour ce projet de Monte Carlo n’est malheureusement pas sans melange. Tout
d’abord il y a les difficultes presqu’insurmontables de transposer mon œuvre en francais sans
mutiler les parties vocales. Toute mon œuvre et sa prosodie musicale sont concues integralement
pour faire valoir le texte anglais vraiment magnifique de Wystan Auden. Vous connaissez aussi
bien que moi les difficultes insurmontables de la traduction en francais aussi bien vis a vis de la
poesie brillante d’Auden qu’a l’egard de mon texte musical qui va subir inevitablement des
modifications non prevues a la base.
Quant a mes interets materiels ils vont de pair avec ceux de mes editeurs Boosey & Hawkes, et
c’est a eux de negocier et de prendre les decisions. Ralph Hawkes avait ces questions
directement en mains. Malheureusement il vient de mourir subitement a New York il y a 8 jours
et actuellement j’ignore encore comment la maison va se reorganiser et qui va s’occuper de mes
affaires.
Voila donc la situation.
Je ne vous parle pas du titre francais car il doit etre traduit, comme les noms des personnages, en
conservant l’idee directrice [sic] inherente a leur caractere (leur role dans la piece). Et pour cela
je doute qu’on puisse reussir sans collaborer directement avec Auden lui-meme. (Son adresse
est : Mr. Wystan Auden, 7 Cornelia Street, New York 14, N.Y.)
Si j’avais sous la main un exemplaire disponible des deux actes deja composes de l’opera (350
pages) je vous l’aurais tout de suite envoye. Mais tous mes exemplaires sont immobilises en
raison des pourparlers que j’ai en cours ici. Le plus simple serait qu’a l’occasion de votre
prochain voyage a Londres vous passiez chez Boosey & Hawkes (295 Regent Street, London
W.I.) ou vous pouvez demander de ma part a Mr. Erwin Stein *) de vous laisser prendre
connaissance de ces deux premiers actes.
Je travaille sans arret dans l’espoir de terminer avant le printemps mais je ne sais pas si j’y
parviendrai.
Vera et moi allons physiquement bien mais sommes moralement inquiets du present et de
l’avenir ; Hollywood d’autre part est bien vide d’interet et la Californie a beaucoup change
depuis que vous l’avez quittee (**). Les Sachs qui viennent de decider de rentrer en France
pourront vous dire ce qu’ils en pensent.
Quant aux Soulima que nous avons peu eu l’occasion de voir pendant leur sejour academique a
Santa Barbara ou ils etaient tres occupes, ils sont en train de s’installer a Urbana (Department of
Music, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois).
La seule consolation qui nous reste ici c’est le menage de Milene et Andre qui est aupres de nous
ainsi que la brave Madubo.
Je dois recevoir demain et la semaine prochaine vos deux eleves.
Je demanderai aux Sachs que je verrai dans 3 jours de vous remettre les disques de ma « Messe »
car je suppose que vous ne les avez pas encore. J’ai fait cet enregistrement avec les chœurs
d’hommes (enfants et adultes) d’une eglise catholique de New York a l’issue de la premiere
americaine en concert a New York. Je ne dis pas que ces enfants aient eu un entrainement ideal
mais meme ainsi je prefere leur timbre a des voix feminines toujours trop passionees dans le
chant liturgique.
Ne m’oubliez pas ; meme des lettre breves de vous me font toujours un immense plaisir.
Nous vous embrassons Vera et moi bien affectueusement.
Votre
I. Str.
*L’editor
**même le climat

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Citation

Igor Stravinsky , “Chapter 4, 16 September 1950 ,” Digital Exhibits, accessed October 25, 2021, https://digex.lib.uoguelph.ca/items/show/2457.

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