Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake

Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake

You think ballet, you think Tchaikovsky. The Russian composer was the nineteenth century’s true master of dance music.
Romantic Ballets - Swan Lake
Today, Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake remain sure-fire hits for ballet companies around the world. It’s remarkable, then, that when Swan Lake was premiered in 1877, the reception it garnered was lukewarm at best. Never mind what the audiences back then thought: it was the dancers who gave the composer a particularly hard time, declaring his music to be simply too difficult to dance to. Music of such richness and depth was not, they thought, the kind that should accompany their balletic moves.

In Russian culture, the swan was the ultimate image of female purity; some have therefore argued that this was the inspiration forTchaikovsky’s music. More likely, though, is that the idea for Swan Lake came from a sweet children’s dance which the composer first heard at his sister’s country house in 1871.

Today, the ballet is adored by young and old: from the graceful Waltz in Act I to the playful Dance of the Cygnets, this is wonderfully innocent music. Tchaikovsky evidently enjoyed composing the music for Swan Lake, writing far more material than would ever be required. Indeed, the version most commonly encountered today is, in fact, an edited one, created after Tchaikovsky’s death and considerably shorter than the original, full-length work. It’s now the world’s most frequently performed ballet.

Recommended Recording

Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre; Valery Gergiev (conductor). Decca: 4757669.

Swan Lake - American Ballet Theatre 2005


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