Classical Music Stories

Classical Music Stories: Romeo, Juliet, and Grieg

Adventure, drama, despair, irony…this music has it all! (And speaking of having it all, check out this photo where Grieg is rocking a truly SPECTACULAR hat and mustache…)

But anyways.

Classical Music Stories is a series that connects music to your favorite books and characters. Since listening to classical music can be like hearing a story, imagining specific stories that match the music can make it that much more fun and accessible!

Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16 (3rd movement)

Performed by Murray Perahia and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

At the beginning, Romeo’s friends are fighting. When Romeo himself shows up, huge happy chords show how much he initially looks forward to jumping into the fray before remembering that these men are Juliet’s family…so he resolves to interrupt the fight instead. Unfortunately, he fails and things actually continue to escalate until suddenly and shockingly Mercutio is stabbed and killed! Romeo is consumed with passionate grief, anger, and despair that prompt him to take revenge and kill Tybalt.

The flute is Juliet. She communicates her sadness and shock over Tybalt’s death to Romeo (piano), who comforts her and in fact mourns himself. They quickly shift back to their tender passion for each other, however, and fall asleep in each other’s arms.

But then the opening of the music comes back. It’s the morning and the families are still fighting as ever. But now this fighting has caused Juliet’s parents to arrange her marriage to Paris to take place in just a few days! There’s a mix of Juliet’s frantic despair (she would rather kill herself!), joy on her mother’s part, and the peremptory attitude of her father. And now a desperate plan has taken hold of Juliet’s mind, thanks to the friar.

With the playful parts of the music, Juliet pretends to go along with her parents’ plans and be happy. Everything is extremely triumphant and joyful as over-the-top plans, decorations, and preparations for their wedding consume everyone. No one could be more excited or thrilled!

But the happy ending of the piece is ironic. We’re left with a view of the impending wedding, but the reader-turned-listener knows what happens in the rest of the play… The story is cut off early with what may be felt as false satisfaction.


Since this is the third movement of a larger piece of music, let me know what you imagine for the first or second movement in the comments! Enjoy!

You might also like: 

If Shakespeare’s Characters Were High School Stereotypes

Classical Music Stories: Romeo and Juliet

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