Tchaikovsky R+J: detailed examination of main themes
Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture<br />When studying your set works the most important thing to do is to listen to the works over and over again. This will allow you to become familiar with the main themes and help you to understand the work as a whole. In the following table I have tried to highlight how the main themes change in the course of the work.<br /><ul><li>IntroductionExpositionDevelopmentRecapitulationCodaFriar Lawrence ThemeIt has a hymn-like, chorale quality and so is also known as the ecclesiastical theme. This theme is supposed to represent Friar Lawrence who acts as a mediator in Shakespeare’s play.This theme forms the introduction. Texture: homophonic at first and then polyphonic when a counter tune is introduced on the strings and dialogue occurs between the partsInstruments: First on the lower woodwind (clarinet and bassoons), then on the higher woodwind (flute and oboe), then on the whole woodwind sectionKey: Starts in F# minor and then modulates down a semitone to F minor and E minorThis is the only section of the work where the Friar Lawrence Theme is not present at all.Here the theme is intertwined with the strife theme. This represents how Friar Lawrence acts as a mediator for the feuding families in Romeo and JulietTexture: polyphonic. FL theme on the horns interweaves with a number of different motifs from the Strife Theme.Instruments: First on horns (brass), then on horns, flute and clarinet and finally on the trumpet with the whole orchestra (notably the bass drum) accomp.Key: Starts in F# minor and then modulates up a semitone to G minor and to B minor.The FL theme is not heard till near the end of the recapitulation.Texture: polyphonic. FL theme is mixed with a busy semiquaver theme.Instruments: Theme is played by woodwind and brass together, with the oboe, horn and trumpet playing the main tune. All other instruments accompany but the percussion is silent when the FL theme is heard.Key: First in C minor, then up a semitone in C# minorPreceded by the funeral march, a chorale arrangement is heard on the woodwind and horns in this section. This chorale section is quite reminiscent of the FL theme. It is heard in B major (all versions of the real FL theme are in minor keys).
IntroductionExpositionDevelopmentRecapitulationCodaFirst Subject: Strife ThemeThe Strife Theme is only four bars long but there are a number of short motifs (motifs e, f, g, m) which create the strife mood. Syncopation, a dotted rhythm and heavy accents are the outstanding features of this theme.Not present here.The Strife them is heard only in the first half of the exposition. Here the theme is presented in full.Texture: homophonic at first. The second time it is polyphonic as the theme is heard in canon. The music is again homophonic the third time round.Instruments: the first time the theme is heard on wind, strings, horns and timpani. The second time the theme is heard in a canon between strings and woodwind. The final time the theme is heard with a much fuller orchestra than before (notably with cymbals)Key: the first and third time round the theme is heard in B minor. In the canon section the theme is heard in D minor and G minor.A combination of this theme and the FL theme makes up the development. The four-bar Strife Theme is, however, never heard in its entirety in the development. Only fragments of the theme, particularly motif m (on the off beat), are heard.Texture: a combination of polyphonic at the start of the section and homophonic towards the end. There is a lot of call and response between the parts at the start.Instruments: there is dialogue between the string and woodwind families in the first half of this section. In the second section the whole orchestra plays accented chords. The cymbals return for only the second time in the work.Key: the key moves from B minor to F# minor to G minor before returning to B minor in preparation for the Recapitulation.The Strife Theme is heard in full at the start of this section. It is also heard at the end of the section when it puts an end to the love theme. This symbolises how the family feuds came between the two lovers in the story.Texture: mainly homophonic with some call and response and polyphony towards the end.Instruments: the full orchestra, as heard at the end of the exposition, plays the Strife Theme both at the start and end of this section. As the music reaches a climax at the end the cymbals become particularly emphatic. Timpani roll announces the end of the sectionKey: mainly B minor, though as the tension rises at the end it modulates up a semitone to C minor and C# minor before returning to B minorNot present here.
IntroductionExpositionDevelopmentRecapitulationCodaSecond Subject: Love Theme (part 1)This theme is probably the most famous music from the work. It is characterised by beautiful, expressive, legato phrases and the haunting fall of a minor 6th with which it begins.Not present here.The Love theme (part 1) is first heard following three statements of the Strife theme. It is played once at first but is then played again following a statement of the Love theme (part2) at the end of this section.Texture: homophonic. The theme is supported only by the bassoon, horns and pizzicato notes on the low strings the first time it is heard. The theme has a richer texture later on but is still mainly homophonic. There is a subtle downward counter melody on the horns.Instruments: cor anglais and viola play the theme the first time. The flute and oboe play the theme the second time and are joined by the clarinet the third time round. A descending harp motif brings the love theme to an end.Key: Though usually in Sonata Form one would expect the composer to modulate to the relative major for the second subject, Tchaikovsky chooses to modulate to D flat major (a semitone lower than the relative major).Not present here.Tchaikovsky changes the series of events in the Recapitulation. The Love theme (part 1) is this time heard following the Love theme (part2). It is much louder than before. It is interrupted by the Strife and FL themes towards the end of the section.Texture: mainly homophonic. Again the horns provide a subtle downward counter melody. When the parts imitate each other towards the end of the section the texture becomes polyphonic.Instruments: the strings and piccolo play the theme in octaves at first. They are accompanied by the rest of the orchestra. Fragments of the theme are then heard first on the upper woodwind, bassoon and cello in imitation and then on the horns and woodwind in imitation. A final fragment of the theme is heard on strings before the interruption of the Strife theme.Key: Though one would expect the composer to stay in the tonic in the Recapitulation, Tchaikovsky decides finally to modulate to D major, the relative major.The funeral march contains an altered version of the Love theme (fall of a fourth rather than a sixth at the start). Following the funeral march and chorale arrangement, a final statement of the Love theme (part 1) is heard. This happens just before the emphatic block chords at the end.Texture: homophonic. Woodwind provide a syncopated accompaniment.Instruments: Bassoon, violin and cello play an altered fragment of the theme during the funeral march. Introduced by arpeggio chords on the harp, the violins and viola later play a 2-bar Love motif.Key: B major.DevelopmentRecapitulationCoda