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Cat. No. CHAN 10108 X Price: £7 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10108 - Tchaikovsky: Hamlet . Festival Overture
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Available From: 18 August 2003
"Tchaikovsky’s first public commission in 1866 was for the occasion of a Moscow visit by the Tsarevich and his new Danish bride but the Festival Overture was never heard by them as the visit was postponed. Correcting it for publication in the last year of his life, Tchaikovsky declared it was ‘far better than 1812’ (the overture), but it remained little known until the present recording.

The idea of writing a three-part work based on Hamlet was first suggested to Tchaikovsky in 1876 during a fallow period for the composer. Tchaikovsky wrote that the idea ‘pleases me greatly, but it’s devilishly difficult’. No more was heard of it until 1888, when he was asked by a French-speaking group of actors in St Petersburg for an overture or entr’acte to go with scenes from the play for a charity performance. In the event, that performance was never given, but the seed bore musical fruit as another fantasy-overture on similar lines to Romeo and Juliet, which was premiered in 1888. Two years later he was asked to write the incidental music for Hamlet to go alongside the overture. For the purposes of the stage production Tchaikovsky kept this Overture but in a severely modified form, making several cuts and re-scoring it for the smaller theatre orchestra as well as simplifying some passages. He then added sixteen more pieces.

The play was a great success and the music was very well received. In this recording listeners can rediscover that music in its fullest form.


The performances here under Geoffrey Simon are excitingly committed and spontaneous; the orchestral playing is nearly always first-rate, and the digital recording has spectacular resonance and depth to balance its brilliance.
The Penguin Complete Guide

High praise originally greeted this enterprise, on all grounds – music, performance and recorded sound – and a decade on, there is little competition… a fascinating appendix for the eager Tchaikovskian.


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