When you think of a classic romance, there is none more timeless than Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Two lovers forbidden to be together put their family values aside to be with one another. Their undying love ends in the most tragic of ways, for they cannot cope with being separated from one another. As one of the most well-known love stories of all time, “Romeo and Juliet” has inspired many composers to create their own pieces of art—let’s take a look at the most famous examples.
Tchaikovsy’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture
Inspired by the idea of his colleague Mily Balakirev, Tchaikovsky wanted to utilize his own unique musical style to explore the classic heart-wrenching story. Rather than portraying the play’s events in their occurring order, the composer decided to present each character and each mood of the play with contrasting melodies. It opens with a soft, serene clarinet and bassoon melody representing Friar Laurence, the lovers’ personal and political ally throughout the entirety of the play. The beautiful melody helps the audience experience who the character is and what his role is throughout the story wordlessly—the Friar seeks to end the civil strife in Verona due to the infighting between the dueling Montagues and Capulets.
When Tchaikovsky portrays scenes of violence and war, the music becomes chaotic to show this feud between the two families. Eventually, the “lovers’ theme” emerges. As the piece progresses, violence and love share the same stage with a feeling of urgency until Romeo and Juliet’s theme is played in a minor key, suggesting their tragic deaths. Overall, Tchaikovsky’s brilliant work is a beautiful and romantic homage to a timeless classic.
Below, check out Tchaikovsky’s Overture to “Romeo and Juliet”:
Berlioz’s “Romèo et Juliette”
In 1827, Berlioz attended a production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Paris which starred his beloved Harriet Smithson playing the title heroine role of Juliet. So enamored and motivated by her and this play, he wrote one of his finest and most original works, “Romèo et Juliette.” For Berlioz, it was a particularly cherished work, as it paid homage to his two mentors, Beethoven and Shakespeare, as well as his own personal Juliet—Smithson would become the focus of his affection leading to his creation of his psychedelic masterpiece, the “Symphonie Fantastique.” He mixes different musical elements to portray the vendetta of the two families, utilizing both instrumental and choral music. At the heart of the symphony, the composer includes a beautiful love scene where the orchestra alone depicts the innocent romance between the main characters. Throughout the entirety of the symphony, voices and instruments masterfully dance to highlight the emotion of each scene of the play.
Below, check out Berlioz’s “Romeo and Juliet”:
No matter how or with who you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, cozy up and fill your heart with the most romantic classical love songs of all time. Whether it’s based on the love story of Romeo and Juliet, or any beautiful piece that emulates love and joy, music is the cherry-on-top to celebrate the ones you love.
Enjoy this playlist of the most romantic classical love songs of all time, and check out our concert, “Valentine’s Day with Chris Botti,” featuring one of the most premiere and prized trumpeters who crosses the boundaries between pop, classical, jazz and rock. For more information and tickets, visit out website!