How to Build a Classical CD Collection

10. Tchaikovsky: Fantasy Overture: Romeo and Juliet, Marche Slave, Capriccio Italien & 1812 Overture

The Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky represents a generation that benefited from professional musical training at the newly established Conservatories set up in St. Petersburg and Moscow by the Rubinstein brothers. Tchaikovsky was a student at the first of these institutions and for some years a member of the teaching staff of the second, until released by the generosity of a rich patron, the widow Nadezhda von Meck, with whom he corresponded but whom he never met. The plays of Shakespeare exercised fascination over Russian composers and Tchaikovsky responded with music based on The Tempest, on Hamlet and best known of all on the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Patriotism gave rise to a Marche Slave, inspired by the struggle of the Serbs, and a Festival Overture, 1812, recalling the defeat of Napoleon and the French retreat from Moscow, vanquished by General February. Tchaikovsky doubted the value of his Overture, which has nevertheless, remained popular, not least because of its use of familiar Russian and French tunes and imitation of real artillery. Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien (Italian Caprice) recalls a visit to Italy in the liveliest terms.

Recommended recording
Tchaikovsky: Marche Slave, Capriccio Italien, Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet and 1812 Overture, played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Adrian Leaper. Naxos 8.550500

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