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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Nationalist Era > Symphonic Fantasia, "The Tempest". Op. 18 (Tchaikovsky)


Symphonic Fantasia, "The Tempest". Op. 18

Pytor Il'yich Tchaikovsky
(1840-93)



The "Tempest" fantasia, one of Tchaikovsky"s earlier works, was written in 1872 and is dedicated to M. Stassov, who suggested Shakespeare’s "Tempest" as a subject for musical description. The program furnished by Stassov is as follows: "The sea. Ariel, spirit of the air, raising a tempest at the bidding of the magician Prospero. Wreck of the vessel conveying Ferdinand. The enchanted isle. The first shy awakening of love between Ferdinand and Miranda. Ariel. Caliban. The enamored pair give themselves up to the magic of love. Prospero divests himself of his power of enchantment and quits the island. The sea." The program so exhaustively states the contents of the fantasia that a detailed analysis seems unnecessary. The sea, both in calm and storm, is forcibly described. The Ariel theme, which is graceful and sprightly, dominates the fantasia throughout, and contrasts strongly with the heavy, ungraceful figure with which the cellos and basses represent Caliban, and the impressive and sombre one which does the same service for Prospero. Although in a letter to Stassov the composer writes that nothing could have suited him better, that he was full of enthusiasm and could think of nothing else, the work falls below the standard of his subsequent dramatic efforts, notably "Francesca da Rimini," which shortly followed it.





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