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CHAN 10108
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CHAN 10108

Tchaikovsky: Hamlet . Festival Overture

The Classical Shop
release date: August 2003

Originally recorded in 2002


London Symphony Orchestra

Geoffrey Simon

Derek Hammond-Stroud


Janis Kelly



All Saints' Church, Tooting, London


Brian Couzens


Ralph Couzens

Bill Todd


Record Label
Chandos Classics


Orchestral & Concertos


Total Time - 61:49
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Festival Overture on the Danish National Hymn, Op. 15


Hamlet, Op. 67bis

  Overture and incidental music  
2 Overture 10:03
  ACT I  
3 Scene 1: Mélodrame 1:34
  Moderato assai  
  First appearance of Ghost  
4 Scene 4: Fanfare 0:22
  Allegro vivo  
  'A Flourish of Trumpets'  
5 Scene 4: Mélodrame 0:41
  Moderato assai  
  Appearance of Ghost to Hamlet  
6 Scene 5: Mélodrame 3:07
  Allegro giusto ed agitato  
  The Ghost tells Hamlet of his father's death  
  ACT II  
7 Entr'acte 3:02
  Allegro semplice  
  Prelude to Scene 1 and first appearance in the play of Ophelia  
8 Scene 2: Fanfare 0:21
  'A Room in the Castle' - 'Flourish'  
  First appearance of King, Queen, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Attendants  
9 Entr'acte 3:16
  Andante quasi allegretto  
  Prelude to Scene 1 which features Hamlet's soliloquy  
  'To be or not to be'  
10 Scene 2: Fanfare 0:10
  'A Flourish' - Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and others  
11 Scene 2: Fanfare 0:15
  'The Dumb Show enters'  
12 Scene 2: Mélodrame 2:04
  Allegro giusto ed agitato  
  The Players enact the Scene of the Poisoning  
  ACT IV  
13 Entr'acte 7:12
  Andante non troppo ('Elegy for Strings')  
  Prelude to Scene 1 - 'A Room in the Castle'  
14 Scene 5: Scène d'Ophélie* 2:24
  'Elsinore' - Ophelia's 'Mad Scene'  
15 Scene 5: Deuxième scène d'Ophélie* 2:07
  'Re-enter Ophelia, fantastically dressed with straws and flowers'  
  ACT V  
16 Entr'acte 5:27
  Marcia. Moderato assai  
  Prelude to Scene 1 - 'A Churchyard'  
17 Scene 1: Chant du Fossoyeur 0:54
18 Scene 1: Marche funèbre 4:36
  Marcia. Moderato assai  
  'Funeral March' - 'Enter Priests and others in procession; the Corpse of Ophelia; Laertes and Mourners following: King, Queen and their Trains'  
19 Scene 2: Fanfare 0:21
  Allegro giusto  
  'Trumpets sound'  
20 Scene 2: Marche finale 0:43
  Allegro risoluto ma non troppo  
Geoffrey Simon’s Tchaikovsky recordings for Chandos remain an important part of the CD catalogue for the excellence of their interpretation and sound quality.

These important recordings of rare Tchaikovsky repertoire are now available at mid-price for the first time on the Chandos Classics Label.

This CD contains the first ever recording of Tchaikovsky’s complete incidental music for Hamlet.

"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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