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Three page autographed letter signed to Russian-American conductor Ivan Grigorovitch Butikov, January 4, 1934.  With a Lipnitzky of Paris postcard photograph.


Respectable Ivan Grigorovitch,


At last I’ve got news from you.  I became worried and even asked a correspondee from Vienna who asked me to give him my autograph to find out about you.


Thank God your troubles are behind and you started to work.  I will wait for you in March in Paris and there I hope to listen to my symphony under your baton.  Are you considering performing it? 


Thank you for your New Years greetings.  My wife and I send you our best wishes for the coming New Year…..


Gretchaninoff (1864-1956) was in France in 1934, escaping from Russia in 1925.  Those early years with the Communist government were difficult for Gretchaninoff who was aligned with the Czar and received a comfortable annual salary from him which allowed him to compose and teach without the pressure of earning a living as a performer.  The Communist regime had not looked on him as kindly when they cancelled his stipend.  He was however appointed Professor of composition at the Moscow University.  In Paris he performed both as a conductor and pianist and from 1929-1931 and was quite successful in the United States conducting his own works as a guest conductor of major orchestras throughout the Country. He also completed an autobiography of his life in 1934.


Gretchaninoff completed his 4th Symphony shortly before leaving Russia in 1927 though it did not receive a performance there. It would not be performed until 1942 after he arrived permanently in New York.  His 5th Symphony written in 1936 was also not performed until its’ Philadelphia premiere under his baton in 1939. 


Gretchaninoff was a composer in the old Romantic mold.  His 4th symphony is reminiscent of both Rimsky and Tchaikovsky in its’ form.  In 1930’s France, with Stravinsky, the Les Six composers, Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger and Auric, combined with Dutilleux, Messiaen, Francaix, Schmidt and even foreigners like Martinu and Enescu giving the Parisian audiences a steady diet of new forms of music, Gretchaninoff was a dinosaur.  Butnikov had been a champion of the composers of Gretchaninoff’s generation, in particular Scriabin.  It would stand to reason that with Butnikov’s connections in Europe that his most recent symphony might have a prayer of performance under his directorship. Alas that was not to be.  The American audiences were far more receptive to new works in the old idiom and both symphonies were well accepted in their day.   Howard Taubman wrote in the New York Times  on April 10th, 1942 after the World Premiere under Sir John Barbirolli and the New York Philharmonic, In it’s unvarnished adherence to the molds of a generation or two ago, it is disarming and almost naïve.  Mr. Gretchaninoff has always been a lyricist, probably at his best in his songs.  The themes of this symphony reveal this strength and weakness.  They are nice tunes, and they are treated to all the tricks at the command of the old fashioned symphonist.  Taubman also acknowledged the rapt applause when the composer took the stage at the conclusion of the work.


Gretchaninoff saw an American public which was receptive to his music in the late 1920’s and saw the coming storm in Europe and left for the United States in 1939 and became a citizen in 1946.  He live long enough to have his old Russian publisher Belaieff, now operating in Paris throw a gala concert via the Belaieff Foundation at Town Hall in honor of his 90th birthday in 1954.


Ivan Grigorovitch Butnikov (1893-1972) studied in Kharkov, Moscow and Leipzig.  He left Russia after the Revolution and emigrated to Constantinople where he founded and led a 50 member orchestra.  From 1923-1929 he taught at the Athens Conservatory and was co-Music Director of the Conservatory Orchestra (Athens State Orchestra) with Dimitri Mitropoulos until 19257 when the orchestra was disbanded.  When it was reformed, Butnikoff and Mitropoulos were considered “general conductors”.  Both left in 1929, Butnikov went to Brussels, whilst Mitropoulos went to America.  Butnikov spent until 1931 conducting the Conservatory Orchestra in Brussels.  In 1931 he was appointed Chief Conductor of the Wiener Singakademie which he led through 1934.  Whilst in Vienna he also conducted the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony.  It would seem he ran into some trouble in Vienna in an around 1934.  His next position was as Music Director for the newly formed Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo, led by Colonel Wasilly de Basil. The troupe was the next generation “Russian” touring ballet after the death of Diaghilev and operated from Monte Carlo.  From 1938, the company essentially became an American touring company due to the War, whilst the business office was operated out of Monte Carlo.  Butnikov moved with the company to the United States in 1938, where a number of years later he married Marjorie Call, the harpist ex wife of harpist Carlo Salzedo.  Butnikov remained with the company until they folded in 1968.