Recorded on 06/26/1999, uploaded on 05/21/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Like many composers, Tchaikovsky was drawn to the dramatic works of William Shakespeare. He was only twenty-nine years old and not widely known as a composer when he set out to write incidental music for Shakespeare’s arguably most famous drama, Romeo and Juliet. However, the piece underwent a lengthy process of development to reach the form in which it is best known now.
Having already produced his first symphony and an opera, the idea of incidental music for Romeo and Juliet was suggested to Tchaikovsky by Mily Balakirev. Balakirev, who had assumed for himself the title of the father of Russian music, recognized Tchaikovsky’s talents and was supportive of his career, though at the same time often harshly critical of his conservatory training. To Balakirev and his circle of composers, Tchaikovsky was too much trained in the German tradition of classical music and thus, at least in their eyes, had betrayed his Russian heritage. Nevertheless, Balakirev mentored Tchaikovsky throughout the composition of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, he went above and beyond the call of simple moral support to the offering of suggestions on the piece’s formal structure, the keys that should be used in different sections, and even some of the music itself. Some of these ideas, such as the pious chorale that opens the work, Tchaikovsky followed. However, the reduction of Shakespeare’s drama to fit into the inherent dichotomy and structure of the sonata form was Tchaikovsky’s original idea. On March 16, 1870, this first version of Romeo and Juliet was premiered but was, as fate would have it, overshadowed by a court case involving Nikolai Rubinstein, who conducted the premiere. In the end, it was a failure.
The unenthusiastic response to Romeo and Juliet convinced Tchaikovsky to heed more of Balakirev’s suggestions and to rework the entire piece in 1870. Tchaikovsky was able to abandon his dry academic approach to the piece and take a more creative approach. In doing so, the piece began to take on more of the form in which it is known today, which included the dramatically effective removal of the D-flat major “love theme” from the development thus shifting the work’s climatic struggle to the recapitulation. This new version was premiered in St. Petersburg in 1872.
Persuaded by Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky published Romeo and Juliet before Balakirev felt all the necessary revisions had been made. Publication, however, took the piece to Vienna and Paris, but its premieres in both cities were no better than its premiere in Russia. Eduard Hanslick, a prominent music critic in Vienna, harshly reviewed the work. In Paris, though it was received coolly by the audience, several Parisian composers in attendance, which include Camille Saint-Saëns, were impressed.
Ten years after Tchaikovsky’s first reworking of Romeo and Juliet, he returned once more to the piece, this time revising its ending. With the new subtitle of “Overture-Fantasia,” this last version, which is nearly always heard today, premiered on May 1, 1886. It has since become one the composer’s most enduring works and its entrancing love theme one of the most recognizable melodies in classical music. Joseph DuBose
Courtesy of The International Festival-Institute at Round Top
Located in historic Round Top, Texas, The James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts and its sole project, The International Festival-Institute at Round Top, were founded in 1971 by world-renowned concert pianist James Dick. Begun with a handful of gifted young pianists in rented space on the town square, the project is now an internationally acclaimed European-styled music institute for aspiring young musicians and distinguished faculty. Over a thirty eight year period and with the help of its patrons and friends, The James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts has developed superb year round education and performance programs.
I love Tchaikovsky!! This piece is one of the best so far. :)
big fan my self play his work all the time
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