RCM History 3 – Romeo and Juliet Overture

Genre Concert Overture
Composer Pyotr II’yich Tchaikovsky
Era Romantic
Date written 1869 revised in 1881
Performing Forces Full orchestra including harp
Key f sharp minor
Meter 4/4
Form sonata allegro
Based on Shakespeare’s play
Characteristics uses dynamics from one extreme to the other, and has expansive intro and epilogue. Presents three musical images and contains cyclical elements.
What are the three musical images portrayed? Friar Lawrence, Feud theme, and Love theme
Intro info long intro, two clarinets and two bassoons play four-part harmony chorale representing Friar Lawrence, organ like chords give medieval atmosphere, then played by high woodwinds, then by strings
Exposition theme 1 info starts with feud theme in b minor, 4/4, allegro guisto, abrupt rhythm, strongly syncopated, full orchestra, fast paced runs in violins, melody in cello then answered by piccolo, crashing cymbals, sudden quiet bridge section with wavelike figures in winds, double basses and horns, leads into theme 2 of exposition
Exposition theme 2 info English horn and muted violins have tender and lyrical love theme with long melodic line in D flat major, 4/4. Romeo represented by English horn, Juliet by muted violins. theme restated by high woodwinds, and then harp and muted strings play codetta
Development info mostly based on feud theme with some references to the Friar Lawrence theme in horns, then trumpets. Sudden dynamic changes, melody is passed to different instruments, crashing cymbals, syncopation.
Recapitulation info feud theme in B Minor fortissimo full orchestra, cymbal crashes, fast descending figures in strings, broad love theme comes back in D Major in strings with horn accompaniment, feud theme and Friar Lawrence theme interrupts, leads up to grand climax with crashing cymbals and timpani
Epilogue info funeral song in B Major based on love theme, muffled drums, chorale from opening, love theme again in strings, finishes solemnly with full orchestra fortissimo chords and timpani

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