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“ROMEO AND JULIET,” OVERTURE-FANTASIA AFTER SHAKESPEARE. PETER ILJITsch TschAIKowsky.
(Born at Votinsk, in the government of Viatka, Russia, May 7, * 1840; died at St. Petersburg, November 6, 1893.)
The “Romeo and Juliet” overture-fantasia as played to-day is by no means the work as originally conceived and produced by the composer.
Kashkin told us some years ago about the origin of the overture, and how Tschaikowsky followed Mily Balakireff's suggestions: “This is always associated in my mind with the memory of a lovely day in May with verdant forésts and tall fir-trees, among which we three were taking a walk. Balakireff understood, to a great extent, the nature of Tschaikowsky's genius, and knew that it was adequate to the subject he suggested. Evidently he himself was taken with the subject, for he explained all the details as vividly as though the work had been already written. The plan, adapted to sonata form, was as follows: first, an introduction of a religious character, representative of Friar Laurence, followed by an Allegro in B minor (Balakireff suggested
* Mrs. Newmarch, in her translation into English of Modest Tschaikowsky's Life of his brother, gives the date of Peter's birth A. 28 (May 1o). Juon gives the date April 25 (May 7). As there are typographical and other errors in Mrs. Newmarch's version, interesting and valuable as it is, I prefer the date given by Juon, Hugo Riemann, Iwan Knorr, and Heinrich Stümcke.
most of the tonalities), which was to depict the enmity between the Montagues and Capulets, the street brawl, etc. Then was to follow the love of Romeo and Juliet (second subject, in D-flat major), succeeded by the elaboration of both subjects. The so-called ‘development'— that is to say, the putting together of the various themes in various forms—passes over to what is called, in technical language, the ‘recapitulation,’ in which the first theme, Allegro, appears in its original form, and the love theme (D-flat major) now appears in D major, the whole ending with the death of the lovers. Balakires spoke with such conviction that he at once kindled the ardor of the young composer.” (Englished by Mrs. Rosa Newmarch.) After Kashkin's Reminiscences of Tschaikowsky appeared, Modest Tschaikowsky's Life of his illustrious brother was published. I quote in the course of this article from Paul Juon's translation into German. Let us see what Modest says about the origin and early years of this overture. The first mention of “Romeo and Juliet” is in a digression concerning the influence of Henri Litolff, the composer of the “Robespierre” and “The Girondists” overtures, over Tschaikowsky; and, if we wonder at this, it is a good thing to remember that the flamboyant Litolff was once taken most seriously by Liszt and others who were not ready to accept the claims of every new-comer. But it is not necessary for us to examine now any questions of opinion concerning real or alleged influence. It was during the winter of 1868–69 that Tschaikowsky fell madly in love with the opera singer, Marguerite Joséphine Désirée Artót. The story of this passion, of his eagerness to marry her, of her sudden choice of the baritone Padilla as a husband, has already been told in a Programme Book of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” It is enough to say that in 1869 Tschaikowsky was still passionately fond of her, and it was not for some years that he could even speak her name without emotion. In August, 1869, Tschaikowsky wrote to his brother Anatole that Mily Balakireff, the head of the neo-Russian band of composers (among whom were Rimsky-Korsakoff, Borodin, César Cui), was then living at Moscow. “I must confess that his presence makes me rather uncomfortable: he obliges me to be with him the whole day, and this is a *Programme Book of January 31, 1903. Mme. Artót died April 3, 1907.
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great bore. It's true he is a very good man, and he is deeply interested in me: but—I don't know why—it is hard work for me to be intimate with him. The narrowness of his musical opinions and his brusque manner do not please me.” He wrote a few days later: “Balakireff is still here. We meet often, and it is my firm belief that, in spite of all his virtues, his company would oppress me like a heavy stone, if we should live together in the same town. The narrowness of his views and the arrogance with which he holds them are especially disagreeable to me. Nevertheless, his presence has helped me in many ways.” And he wrote August 30: “Balakireff went away to-day. If he was in my opinion irritating and a bore, justice compels me to say that I consider him to be an honorable and a good man, and an artist that stands immeasurably higher than the crowd. We parted with true emotion.” Tschaikowsky began work on “Romeo and Juliet” towards the end of September, 1869. Balakireff kept advising him, urging him on by letter. . Thus he wrote in October: “It seems to me that your inactivity . comes from the fact that you do not concentrate yourself, in spite of your ‘friendly hovel' of a lodging.” (Yet Tschaikowsky had been working furiously on twenty-five Russian songs arranged for pianoforte, four hands, “in the hope of receiving money from Jurgenson,” the publisher.) Balakireff went on to tell him his own manner of composition, and illustrated it by his “King Lear” overture. “You should know,” he added, “that in thus planning the overture I had not as yet any determined ideas. These came later, and began to adjust themselves to the traced outlines of the forms. I believe that all this would happen in your case, if you would only first be enthusiastic over the scheme. Then arm yourself with galoshes and a walkingstick, and walk along the boulevards. Begin with the Nikitsky, let
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