On the steps of the Polenovs’ house. Left to right: Sviatoslav, Oleg with his son Serge and Lina Prokofiev; Dmitrii and Fedor Polenov; August 1965.
Baku, 11 August 1935
Don’t be surprised at the Moscow postmark: SoŽtens has taken this letter. He flew in from Tiflis on his way to Moscow, and when they landed at Baku, he got stuck here for a day because there was a mix-up over the luggage. It was very convenient because I managed to show him the new Concerto [Violin Concerto No.2 – Ed.], which we worked on today and which he liked. He flies on tomorrow and will take this letter.
I got here without any problems: I slept most of the way but arrived at Baku at three in the morning on the day of the concert, “and it was just in time” [“il ťtait rudement temps!” in the original], with a rehearsal at ten in the morning! The orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic played superbly and Defauw was an excellent accompanist and has had an enthusiastic reception here. So, the first two concerts went well, but tomorrow there are alterations because Zhorzhesko is ill, and cannot come. He’s been struck down with paralysis! As a result I am staying in Baku until the 16th, and then I go to Tiflis for a single concert (18th); the other one is cancelled but Madatov will pay for it. I’m not very happy about having to stay here: Baku is a huge, stifling city (about a million inhabitants), which smells of oil. I’m grateful that there is a north wind and that it’s not as hot as before I arrived, when the “Marianna” (a wind from the sea, or more accurately from the desert beyond the sea) was blowing. Defauw, his wife and SoŽtens found the heat intolerable and all had stomach upsets. Defauw and his wife were ill, and he wasn’t on form, but still had a success. When I arrived, they had already been in Tiflis where they had been put into a terrible hotel with bedbugs; they’ve just left by air for Moscow without having done the Georgian Military Way because it’s temporarily closed because of landslides. I’ve tried to swim, but the sea here has a strange smell – they tell me it’s seaweed, but I think it’s just the oil. I’ve been to the oil wells and to where they drill for oil. What a business! It goes from here in two pipes across the whole of the Caucasus to Batum, and from there is loaded onto ships to be exported. When you think that in the past, all this poured into the pockets of various Nobels and Montachevs,(3) it’s then that you realise what a blessing the Revolution has been!
Every day I am orchestrating, the room is pleasant with a clean bath and “hot water” [in English in the original], but I would a thousand times prefer to be in Polenovo. How have you managed? Have you had a rest? Are the children going out? I hope that the angina has cleared up completely. How are you spending the time? What letters are there? On the 17th, send a telegram to Tiflis, to me at the Hotel Oriant. I haven’t yet decided whether I shall go to Sukhumi, but there’s a possibility I shall.
I hug and kiss you; kiss the children for me. Do they charm everyone they meet? Have you started singing? How are the Messerers? And Mutnykh? Greetings to them and to my “daughters” as well. NEXT
(3) The Nobel Brothers Association was established in the 1870s and played an essential role in the development of the oil and gas industry in Azerbaijan. Alexander Ivanovich Montachev was another entrepreneurial man who made a vast fortune in this industry around the turn of the century.