Recorded on 02/07/2007, uploaded on 02/04/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Tchaikovsky’s first ballet, Swan Lake, was composed during 1875-76 and established his reputation as a composer of ballet music. The origins of the ballet, however, are somewhat obscured. Though the Russian ballet patriarch Fyodor Lopukhov claims the ballet’s story as purely Russian, the basis of its libretto, at least in part, was the German tale Der geraubte Schleier (“The Stolen Veil”) by Johann Karl August Musäus. Furthermore, the ballet’s protagonist, Prince Siegfried, was partially based on King Ludwig II of Bavaria, sometimes referred to as “the Swan King,” and in whose life Tchaikovsky took a great interest during the ballet’s composition. On the other hand, the libretto also bears a resemblance to the Russian folktale “The White Duck.” The original author of the libretto is also unknown, though it is thought to be Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, Director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres, who commissioned the work from Tchaikovsky.
Some of the music for Swan Lake, including its famous Song of the Swans, Tchaikovsky salvaged from an earlier attempt at ballet titled The Lake of the Swans composed in 1871. Before setting to work on Begichev’s commission, Tchaikovsky studied the works of other ballet composers including Léo Delibes and Cesare Pugni. When he finally set to work in the spring 1875, the ballet was composed with great enthusiasm and completed within a year.
Swan Lake premiered on March 4, 1877 as part of a benefit concert. However, its performance was marred by poor production, ranging from the dancers to the orchestra, and Tchaikovsky’s score was the inevitable casualty. Panned by most critics for a variety of reasons, such as the complicated plot and Tchaikovsky’s overly “Wagnerian” score, only a few recognized the virtues of Tchaikovsky’s music. Despite this ill-reception, Swan Lake continued to be performed quite regularly. In the years prior to Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893, the composer was in discussions with Marius Petipa, who choreographed both The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, to stage a revival of Swan Lake. The revival did not take place until 1895, two years after the composer’s death, and has since become the bases on which most subsequent productions of the ballet are based. Joseph DuBose
Clarinet virtuoso Simeon Bellison was born in Moscow and had a busy European career before taking the post of principal clarinet for the New York Philharmonic, which he held from 1920 until 1948. He founded the Bellison Clarinet Ensemble in 1927. Bellison's choir was 75 players strong and often performed in Carnegie Hall. He personally arranged many works for this ensemble and arranged and published more than 100 works for clarinet with piano. Alexander Bedenko
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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