Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikovsky)

Romeo And Juliet (Tchaikovsky)

Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikovsky)

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Romeo and Juliet is an orchestral work composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It is styled an Overture-Fantasy, and is based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. Like other composers such as Berlioz and Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky was deeply inspired by Shakespeare and wrote works based on The Tempest and Hamlet as well. Unlike Tchaikovsky's other major compositions, Romeo and Juliet does not have an opus number.

Musical structure

Although styled an 'Overture-Fantasy' by the composer, the overall design is a symphonic poem in sonata form with an introduction and an epilogue. The work is based on three main strands of the Shakespeare story. The first strand, written in F-sharp minor, following Mily Balakirev's suggestion, is the introduction representing the saintly Friar Laurence. Here there is a flavour of Russian Orthodoxy, but also a foreboding of doom from the lower strings. The Friar Laurence theme is heard in F Minor, with plucked strings, before ending up in E Minor.

Eventually a single B minor chord with a D natural in the bass passed back and forth between strings and woodwinds grows into the second strand in B minor, the agitated theme of the warring Capulets and Montagues, including a reference to the sword fight. The forceful irregular rhythms of the street music point ahead to Igor Stravinsky and beyond. The action suddenly slows, the key dropping from B minor to D-flat (as suggested by Balakirev) and we hear the opening bars of the love theme, the third...
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