“Francesca da Rimini”: Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Opera

On Wednesday, we heard Tchaikovsky’s thrilling 1876 orchestral tone poem, Francesca da Rimini. The composer was fascinated with the story from Dante’s Inferno, and first considered turning it into an opera. When that project failed to materialize, Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest, persuaded him that the subject was ripe for a dramatic tone poem. Sergei Rachmaninov’s opera, Francesca da Rimini, set to a libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky, premiered thirty years later in January, 1906. It’s a short work …

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“Francesca da Rimini”: Tchaikovsky’s Turbulent, Dante-Inspired Tone Poem

Francesca da Rimini, Tchaikovsky’s turbulent orchestral tone poem, begins at the entrance of Hell. Following a ferocious flash in the low strings and the haunting overtones of the tamtam, a grim, quietly grating brass statement almost seems to intone the ominous words from Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” In these opening bars, which Tchaikovsky marks, Andante lugubre, there are subtle, fleeting hints of the tritone, historically nicknamed the “Devil’s interval” because of its dissonance. …

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