Overture to Ostrovsky's drama, Op. 76 (1864).
In the spring of 1864, Anton Rubinstein, under whom Tchaikovsky was studying composition, set his students a summer assignment to compose a large-scale orchestral piece—an overture to an opera. Tchaikovsky, who was already at that time thinking of composing an opera to Aleksandr Ostrovsky’s drama The Storm, chose this as his subject .
A rough programme of the overture was noted down by Tchaikovsky on the manuscript score of his orchestration of the Adagio and Allegro brillante from Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Studies. Its contents were as follows:
In a letter to Aleksandra Davydova from Trostinets of 28 July/9 August 1864, Tchaikovsky wrote: "Tell Vera Vasilyevna that my Storm is rumbling along, and she may run the risk of hearing it at the Russian Musical Society" .
On finishing the overture, Tchaikovsky sent the score to Herman Laroche.
Laroche gave his own account of this event: "In the summer of 1864, Pyotr Il’ich had to write a large overture, for which he chose himself the programme of Ostrovsky’s The Storm. The orchestra he employed was ‘heretical’, with bass tuba, English Horn. harp, tremolo and divided strings, bass drum and cymbals. He was probably optimistic in nurturing the hope that the requirements of the programme would exempt him from any punishment for failing to follow the usual guidelines. In any event, by the start of term, or perhaps somewhat earlier, he finished his work. I cannot recall the reason now, but he asked me to stand in for him, and sent me the score by post with a message to show it to Anton Grigoryevich. A few days later, Rubinstein told me to come and listen to his judgement. Never in my life did I receive such a dressing-down for my misdemeanours as on that day (as I recall, it was a beautiful Sunday morning), listening on behalf of someone else" .
The Storm overture was never performed during the composer's lifetime. It was heard for the first time only on 24 February/7 March 1896 at Belyayev's third Russian Symphony Concert in Saint Petersburg, conducted by Aleksandr Glazunov.
The introductory themes from the overture The Storm (Andante misterioso) were employed by Tchaikovsky in other works: both themes (of the opening and the song Iskhodila mladen'ka [Исходила младенька]) appear in the Overture in C minor, and moreover the opening was re-used by the composer in the entr'acte to Act II of the opera The Voyevoda. The theme of the "Evening by the Volga" episode (con espressione, B major) was used by Tchaikovsky in the second movement of his Symphony No. 1.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 272–273
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013