Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Fantasy Overture: Romeo and Juliet (1869)

Tchaikovsky's fantasy overture Romeo and Juilet was written in 1869 when Tchaikovsky was 28 years old, and it was one of his earliest pieces to achieve a major success. It is an extended symphonic movement in sonata form with an introduction and epilogue. Its programme is drawn directly from the Shakespeare play. The long slow introduction starts with a chorale, played by the woodwinds and describing Friar Laurence. The chorale is elaborated in various ways always with dark foreboding of the events that are about to occur. A fast and furious section follows describing the warring between the Montagues and Capulets. The gives way to one of Tchaikovsky's most beautiful lyrical passages describing the balcony scene. Here the cor anglais depicts Romeo and the flute Juilet. The warring music returns with more fury describing the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt followed again by the love music, richer and more passionate, culminating in the deaths of the lovers. A short chorale serves as a lament for them before the tragic apotheosis.

Tchaikovsky's Overture to Romeo and Juliet was performed by the Portobello Orchestra on the 12th July 2014, conducted by William Church.