Francesca Da Rimini
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Back when I was in college, I would go to the Denver Philharmonic and attend the lectures given before the piece was played. This allowed me to get some background on the piece before I listened to it being played by the orchestra of musicians. It was in these lectures where I learned that Beethoven’s 5th Symphony started with morse code for the letter “V”, signifying “victory.” Overall, these lectures gave me a greater understanding of the piece of music so that I could appreciate it on a deeper level. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of a history lesson to bring out the “aha” moments when listening to a piece of music.
Through a multimedia production, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic has gone above and beyond in expanding my understanding of the Tchaikovsky piece Francesca Da Rimini. In their presentation, I realized that the composers of bygone eras were able to bring the stories of literature to life through their music. Tchaikovsky did this a number of times with Romeo and Juliet perhaps being his most recognizable. The background on Tchaikovsky’s personal life helped to give a sense of what he was going through when he composed Francesca Da Rimini. I did not know that there was a piece of music that so expertly captured the first few moments of The Divine Comedy until I heard this piece.
Through the Philharmonic’s presentation, I gained a deeper understanding of the sections of the piece. If you told me that Francesca Da Rimini was based on an early section of Dante’s Inferno, I would have definitely been able to pick out the descent into hell, as well as the wind that swept the damned souls of the second level through the air for eternity. These elements of the piece were clear. However, I would not have known that Francesca was represented by the clarinet, or the lovers’ theme was played by violins exactly one octave apart. The music Tchaikovsky composed for this tragic tale is certainly filled with impact, emotion, and vivid imagery. If you ever get a chance to learn more about this piece, please do!