Send Us a #LoveLetter
In the spirit of our Notables program’s upcoming presentation of A. R. Gurney's Love Letters, featuring Alec Baldwin and Renée Fleming and directed by Mark Lamos, we turn our thoughts to the broader concept of love letters. We invite you to submit your own love letters to be featured in our love letter photo album on Facebook. Post a photo of a love letter or your favorite line from a love letter on our Facebook wall, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet a photo using #LoveLetter.
We kick things off with some notable (pun intended) love letters relating from the lives of composers:
Leoš Janáček’s String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters," was inspired by 700 obsessive love letters the composer wrote to a married woman 37 years his junior. The Takács Quartet performs the piece here later this season on April 14.
During the spring of 1877, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky received a love letter from a student of the Moscow Conservatory. Shortly thereafter, he was introduced to the verse novel Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, which portrayed the main character receiving a love letter which he ignored, resulting in his later misfortune. Tchaikovsky did not want to reenact the plot of the novel, so a meeting with the suitor resulted in a hasty marriage, which ended after only several months. During this time, Tchaikovsky composed his opera, Eugene Onegin.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s 1812 letters to a mysterious sweetheart are the subject of much discussion, as her identity remains unknown. The following is from one of the letters, dated July 6, 1812:
My angel, my all, my very self—only a few words today and at that with your pencil—not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon—what a useless waste of time. Why this deep sorrow where necessity speaks—can our love endure except through sacrifices—except through not demanding everything—can you change it that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine?
Oh, God! look out into the beauties of nature and comfort yourself with that which must be—love demands everything and that very justly—that it is with me so far as you are concerned, and you with me. If we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I!
Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other; moreover, I cannot communicate to you the observations I have made during the last few days touching my own life—if our hearts were always close together I would make none of the kind. My heart is full of many things to say to you. Ah!—there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all—cheer up—remain my true, only treasure, my all as I am yours; the gods must send us the rest that which shall be best for us.
In 1837, Franz Liszt met Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who was to be his partner for the remaining 39 years of his life. In his last will and testament, Liszt’s pays tribute to her.
To Jeanne-Elizabeth-Carolyne, neé Iwanowska.
I cannot write her name without an ineffable thrill. All my joys are with her, and all my sufferings go to her to be appeased. Not only has she become associated and completely identified with my existence, my work, my worries, my career, helping me with her advice, sustaining me with her encouragement, reviving me with her enthusiasm and with her unimaginable prodigality of attentions, anticipations, wise and gentle words, ingenious and persistent efforts; more than that, she has often renounced herself, abdicating whatever there is of a legitimate imperative in her nature, the better to bear my own burden, which she has made her wealth and her only luxury!!
I kneel before her in thought in order to bless her and render thanks to her as my guardian angel and my intercessor with God; she who is my glory and my honor, my forgiveness and my rehabilitation, the sister and the bride of my soul! What words can I use to tell of the wonders of her devotion, the courage of her sacrifices, the greatness, the heroism, and the infinite tenderness of her love? I should have liked to possess an immense genius to sing in sublime harmonies of that sublime soul. Alas! I have but scarcely succeeded in stammering a few scattered notes borne away by the wind. If, however, there were to survive something of my musical toil (to which I have applied myself with an overriding passion for the last ten years), let it be the pages in which Carolyne has the greatest share because of the inspiration of her heart! I beg her to forgive me for the inadequacy of my artistic legacy, as well as the still more distressing insufficiency of my good intentions intermingled with so many shortcomings and disparities.
"Love Letters is about a fifty year love affair carried on primarily through letters, written in and about a world where letter-writing was very much an essential mode of communication." --A.R. Gurney, Love Letters playwright