Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
Francesca da Rimini, Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32 (1876)
Capriccio Italien on folk tunes for orchestra, Op. 45 (1880)
Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy after Shakespeare, TH 42 (1869–1880)
The musicAeterna orchestra’s new symphonic programme is dedicated to the image of Italy in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s work.
Impressions of the Eternal City and the Roman carnival took shape of the Capriccio Italien — a brilliant orchestral piece, which the composer himself predicted a bright future: ‘…I already have an Italian fantasy on folk themes ready in the first edition, which, it seems to me, can expect a rosy future. It will produce an impact due to some charming themes that I partly selected from anthologies, and partly heard on the streets with my own ears.’
The works surrounding the Capriccio Italien in musicAeterna’s concert are connected with Italy less directly — and thus more subtly. Back in 1869, Mily Balakirev suggested that Tchaikovsky should compose an orchestral fantasy based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Over the next ten years, the composer made three revisions of this programmatic work, and at the end of his life he set out to write an opera on the eternal plot about the tragic love of the two Veronese. The sketch of the Romeo and Juliet duet (finished by Sergei Taneyev) has been preserved, which is based on the memorable theme of love from the overture-fantasy.
In 1876 Tchaikovsky turned to another classic plot drawn from Dante’s Divine Comedy: Francesca da Rimini was conceived as an opera, but turned into a program symphonic fantasy. The orchestral depiction of infernal whirlwinds and groans of sinners is crowned with another hymn of sublime love – in Francesca’s Tale, the central section of fantasy. Thus, turning to Italian literary plots (let us recall that Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet is rooted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses), Tchaikovsky singles out what constitutes the core of the romantic myth of Italy. In his music, this country appears not only as an existing territory on the world map, but also as a space of fantasy and feelings set free, where neither age-old human enmity nor the forces of hell have power over true love.