Hamlet - Fantasy Overture
The idea for Hamlet came from a request from his friend the French actor Lucien Guitry for an orchestral piece to be played at a charity performance of Shakespeare's play in 1888. Tchaikovsky responded with his fantasy overture, dedicating it to Edvard Grieg whom he had befriended the previous year while touring Germany. He was worried that the opening sounded too similar to his recently completed Manfred Symphony, although he doesn't seem to have done much about it and the music starts (as it is destined to end) in similar anguish.
In 1891 he was asked for incidental music for another performance, this time a benefit for Guitry. The overture he created for the theatre was brutally shorter than the concert version, omitting (for good reasons) the so-called love theme and the epilogue, and more besides. The present arrangement is close to the original, making a few cuts which are the composer's own. Although the work explores many keys and takes in some major-key passion (why not? - it worked in Romeo and Juliet) there is no escape from fateful F minor.