6th of September '73, Petrograd
I admit that I made myself find a free minute to talk things over with you, my dear généralissime, that I made myself answer immediately your powerful call to Europe--to Liszt. But at the same time I made myself realize that, after all, Khovanshchina has to be started, because its time has come.
Never before have I felt so strongly that peace is indispensable for creative work, that only in this condition is it possible to concentrate, to sit tight in one's own little box, and peer from there at the characters: of what sort are they? Thus, having put myself in my little box, I prepared the scene of Marfa with Mother Susanna, which (I mean the scene) along with the piano, I just delivered to Dimitri Vasilyevich: we are going to try out the said scene in the house of Tatishchev, on Malaya Morskaya.
So, we've started Khovanshchina, my dear. What will be? Reading these lines, you are thinking: that rascal Musoryanin, why does he remain silent about Liszt?
Don't curse me, but give me a chance to share the prepared scene with you--give me this consolation. Contrasts: Marfa and Susanna--a complete, strong and loving woman and an aged spinster, whose whole delight in life is in spite, in a search for adulterous sin and in its persecution--an extremely sensual and passionate alto with a dry, screeching soprano. The scene has its origin in an apparently trifling accident. Susanna happens to overhear Marfa's song, or rather, the end of the song. Susanna watches Marfa with satisfaction as the latter sings:
As God's candles we all--with thee--shall burn,
All around our brethren will be in flames,
All our souls floating upwards in smoke and fire.
But when, exhausted by her frustrated passion for Andrei Khovansky, she (on a trill) sings
Thy dear girl has lost thy love
Out of her sight thou hast deceived her,
So in evil eternal captivity
Thou shalt feel the bitter sting of the dissentress.