Recorded on 12/15/2010, uploaded on 05/16/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Ballet as a dance had already passed its prime and was mostly in decline throughout much of Europe, yet Tchaikovsky nevertheless produced three remarkable works that established him as one of the most important ballet composers of the later 19th century, and brought the musical aspect of the genre to a masterful fruition. The first of these, Swan Lake, composed in 1876, was received unfavorably by critics at its premiere but effectively demonstrated Tchaikovsky’s skill in the genre. Twelve years later, he was approached by the Director of the Imperial Theatres to compose another ballet. Originally, the story of Undine was proposed as the ballet’s subject, but ultimately the Brothers Grimm’s adaptation of Charles Perrault’s La Belle au bois dormant (“The Beauty sleeping in the wood”) was chosen.
Perhaps eager to produce a successful ballet, Tchaikovsky took enthusiastically to the work in the winter of 1888, a relatively happy period in the composer’s otherwise melancholy life. When he completed the work, it was consequently one of his most lighthearted scores, imbued with a bright spirit of fantasy. Today, it is regarded as the best of his three ballet scores, partially owing to its classical restrained as opposed to the overt Romanticism of Swan Lake.
The Sleeping Beauty premiered on January 15, 1890 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Choreographed by Marius Petipa, who would also work with Tchaikovsky on The Nutcracker, the premiere was a modest success. Unfortunately, Tchaikovsky’s death three years later would prevent him from witnessing the full triumph of his creation. The ballet became an instant success outside of Russia and by 1903 was second only to Pugni’s The Pharoah’s Daughter in number of performances. As a testament to the eventual popularity of Tchaikovsky’s music, portions of his score was used in Walt Disney’s 1959 film adaptation of the fairy tale. Joseph DuBose
Two movements from the ballet "The Sleeping Beauty" Tchaikovsky, arranged by Mikhail Pletnev
"The Sleeping Beauty" is one of three ballets by Peter Tchaikovsky and it premiered in 1890. Russian pianist, composer and conductor Mikhail Pletnev made a transcription of some parts of this ballet, putting together a suite of 11 pieces. It became a very popular piano work together with his transcription of "The Nutcracker". The famous Adagio is one of the lyrical culminations of the ballet, and Pletnev masterfully uses capabilities of the piano to bring out the orchestral colors and power. The dance character of the Finale brings joyfulness and gracefulness. Both pieces are replete with bravura passages and other virtuoso techniques that present considerable challenges to the performer. Stanislav Khristenko
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