Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tchaikovsky - The Shakespeare Trilogy

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

One of the first posts I made in my Cover 2 Cover series was of a double-CD set of Tchaikovsky’s tone poems. In that post, I discussed four of the eight tracks in that set. At that time, all eight tracks were active on YouTube.

Since then, the tracks have been removed; it’s happened to me before, which is why I always back up the tracks into my digital music collection.

All this to say that the tracks we will be discussing this week aren’t available as YouTube clips, but will be available for your listening pleasure on my on-line archive.

Three of the tracks are part of what I call Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare Trilogy, works inspired by the Bard’s plays. The most well-known of the trilogy is the overture-fantasia in B minor Romeo and Julietafter Shakespeare's tragedy (ca.1594), written by Tchaikovsky in October and November 1869, and extensively revised between July and September 1870. The final, definitive version of the score dates from August 1880. Between 1878 and 1881 Tchaikovsky sketched part of a duet scena for an opera on the subject of Romeo and Juliet, using themes from the overture-fantasia. Like it contemporary tone poem Fatum, the first version of the work is dedicated to Mily Balakirev.

Tchaikovsky's fantasia The Tempest after William Shakespeare's drama (ca.1611), was composed and orchestrated between August and October 1873. The Tempest is dedicated to Vladimir Stasov (1824–1906), art historian, critic, and director of the arts section of the Saint Petersburg Public Library who proposed the subject to Tchaikovsky in a letter dated December 1872. The completed score was prefaced by a short programme:

The Sea. The magician Prospero commands his spirit Ariel to create a storm, of which a victim is the fortunate Ferdinand. The enchanted island. The first timid stirrings of love between Ferdinand and Miranda. Ariel. Caliban. The lovers are overwhelmed by their passion. Prospero renounces his magical powers and leaves the island. The Sea.
Hamlet is an overture-fantasia after Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark(1599–1601). It was written and orchestrated by Tchaikovsky between June and October 1888. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest suggested the following programme in three sections:
Elsinore and Hamlet before the appearance of the ghost;
Polonius (scherzando) and Ophelia (adagio) ;
Hamlet after the appearance of the ghost. His death and Fortinbras
An abridged version of the overture-fantasia was later used in Tchaikovsky's incidental music to the play - written in January 1891 for a French production in Saint Petersburg. Hamlet is dedicated to the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

To close off the program, I included from the same Double set the 1812 Overture.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Hamlet (Гамлет), overture-fantasia in F minor, Op. 67 (TH 53)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conducting

The Tempest (Буря) fantasia in F minor, Op. 18 (TH 44)
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt
Eliahu Inbal, conducting

Romeo and Juliet (Ромео и Джульетта) Fantasy-Overture in B minor, TH 42
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
Bernard Haitink, conducting

The Year 1812 (1812 год) festival overture in E-flat major, Op. 49 (TH 49)
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
Igor Markevitch, conducting

Tracks from Philips Duo 442586