Francesca da Rimini (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32, was composed in less than three weeks during his visit to Bayreuth in the autumn of 1876. It is dedicated to his friend and former pupil Sergei Taneyev.
In this fantasia, Tchaikovsky presents a symphonic interpretation of the tragic tale of Francesca da Rimini, a beauty who was immortalized in Dante's Divine Comedy. In the fifth canto of Inferno, Dante the narrator meets the shade of Francesca da Rimini, a noblewoman who fell in love with the brother of her cruel husband. After the lovers were discovered and killed in revenge by the husband, they were condemned to Hell for their adulterous passions. In their damnation, the lovers are trapped together in a violent storm, whirled through the air around the second circle of Hell, never to touch the ground again. They are tormented most of all by the ineradicable memory of the joys and pleasures of the embraces they shared in life.
In writing Francesca da Rimini, Tchaikovsky expressed a poignant identification with the heroine and her tragic fate, a sympathy which was also dramatically evoked in his ballet Swan Lake and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture.
This symphonic poem, perhaps more than any other of Tchaikovsky's works, shows the possible influence of Franz Liszt, both musically and in terms of subject matter, and Richard Wagner, whose music dramas Tchaikovsky had traveled to Bayreuth to review. Liszt frequently chose subjects of a Gothic, diabolical nature: the Totentanz (1849), Sonata Après une lecture de Dante (1856), and Dante Symphony (1857) are cases in point. Tchaikovsky's use of swirling chromaticism in the depiction of the winds of the second circle of Hell also resembles Liszt, as well as Edvard Grieg's depiction of a stormy evening in his incidental music to Act V of the play Peer Gynt . As for Wagner, while Tchaikovsky generally did not care for his work, he freely acknowledged its influence on Francesca to Taneyev.
The piece has a duration of around 25 minutes.
The music is scored for 3 flutes (third doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, english horn, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 cornets in A, 2 trumpets in E, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, tam tam, harp and strings.
- Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic (three recordings, 1948, 1972 and 1983).
- Leopold Stokowski conducting the New York Stadium Symphony Orchestra (the summer name for the New York Philharmonic) and the London Symphony Orchestra.
- Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
- Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
- Mariss Jansons conducting the Oslo Philharmonic.
- Yevgeny Svetlanov conducting the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation.
- Bernard Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
- Vladimir Fedoseyev conducting Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra.
- Seiji Ozawa conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.
- Neeme Järvi conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
- Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic (twice).
- Leonard Slatkin conducting the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
- Christoph Eschenbach conducting the Houston Symphony.
- Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.
- Igor Markevitch conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestre Lamoureux, Paris.
- Charles Munch conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
- Charles Munch conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Riccardo Muti conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.
- Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra.
On the 8 May 2010 broadcast of BBC 3'S CD Review - Building a Library, reporter Jonathan Swain surveyed recordings of Francesca di Rimini and recommended the 2007 recording by the Orchestra e Coro Dell’ Accademia Di Santa Cecilia conducted by Antonio Pappano as the best available choice.
References in other contexts
- Figures prominently in the 1948 motion picture Unfaithfully Yours by Preston Sturges
- Excerpt used in the climactic scene of the 1966 motion picture Torn Curtain by Alfred Hitchcock (staged incongruously as a ballet)
- Excerpts from the score were used in the 2005 ballet Anna Karenina, choreographed by Boris Eifman.
- Brief excerpts were used in a few episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show.
- Excerpts were used throughout an episode entitled "The Savage" from the television show Bonanza (Season 2, Episode 12), originally aired December 3, 1960.
- The central and final sections, freely adapted, were used by Kurt-Heinz Stolze in his arrangements of Tchaikovsky's music for John Cranko's ballet Onegin, first staged by the Stuttgart Ballet on April 13, 1965.
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- Swain, Jonathan. "Building a Library: Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini". CD Review - Building a Library. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 30 December 2013.