La Source, Act 2, No. 22: Mazurka

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The beloved score of the Les Sylphides — not to be confused with the Schneitzhoeffer La Sylphide — can't count as an original composition, as it comprises orchestrations of gorgeous Chopin piano pieces. In the midth century an influx of imported talent had shifted the focus of ballet to the wealth of czarist Russia, but in the view of several scholars the artistic level soon sank.


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As Peggy Cochrane put it: "Costumes and settings were tasteless and lacking in distinction, music was insipid and flavorless, and dancers indulged in vulgar displays of meaningless technical virtuosity. While on vacation in Tchaikovsky had created for his sister's children a family entertainment involving swans on a lake.

In , Vladimir Begichev, a friend with whom Tchaikovsky had travelled throughout Europe, and who had become the director of the Russian Imperial Theater in Moscow of which the Bolshoi was the crown jewel , commissioned a score for a libretto he had fashioned, possibly in collaboration with Vasily Geltser, the ballet-master of the Bolshoi and Julius Reisinger, its resident choreographer. Tchaikovsky wrote that he accepted the commission for Swan Lake "partly because I needed the money and partly because I have long cherished a desire to try my hand at this type of music.

The story of Swan Lake was intriguing, as it was rooted in ancient myths of swans as a symbol of womanhood and legends of women transformed into birds. The first Odettes: Sobechshanskaya and Karparova But Tchaikovsky also might have been enticed by its derivation from operas in which men fell in love with enchanted women, a situation eerily resonant with his own bizarre personal history, in which he foreswore marital life for a chaste but deeply passionate relationship, conducted entirely through correspondence, with a wealthy widow.

He sketched the entire score that summer and, amid other work, completed the orchestration by April The original score is no longer extant, and scholars largely have been unable to recreate the premiere performance, forcing reliance upon inferences from surviving artifacts. Yet it seems clear that the debut was a severe disappointment due to a confluence of problems.

The conductor was an amateur, ill-equipped to handle the challenges of the score. Anatole Chujoy considers the choreographer Reisinger "a hack with no talent or taste for the task" and the prima ballerina , Pauline Karpakova, a "run-of-the-mill dancer past her prime. Critics were brutal, focusing on monotonous and unimaginative choreography. One cited the "incoherent waving of arms and legs [that] continued for the course of four hours" as torture.

Yet those same critics approved the music, even though they might not have realized that substantial portions were thought undanceable and had been cut in favor of Karpakova's substitutions — plus, as James Lyons notes, in light of the depressing action on stage, the audience might have been too upset by what it saw to be much aware of what it heard. A later Odette — Pavlova and friend While the practice of the time was for a composer to closely tailor a ballet score to a detailed scenario as Tchaikovsky would do for his Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker , in this instance he had little direct guidance from the authors and was left largely to his imagination.

As a result, the music was structured in broad gestures and treated rather abstractly. Ann Nugent feels that the company couldn't relate to music that went beyond mere accompaniment and support but rather asserted itself with melodic and psychological development. Even so, Tchaikovsky blamed himself for the failure.

Charles Reid characterized him as "an introspective young genius with a talent for psychological self-torture.

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Les Sylphides

Indeed Tchaikovsky had so little self-confidence that he consented to write another ballet, Sleeping Beauty , only if he was promised exhaustive guidance in the form of minute details of the required numbers. As for Swan Lake , Tchaikovsky intended to rewrite the score but never did. As Charles Reid asserts: "Happily for posterity he never found the time to do this.

One cannot imagine the music bettered. While the Swan Lake premiere engagement is often cited as a failure, several historians note that it remained in the Bolshoi repertoire for six years, longer than a typical run of the time. When he died in it was assumed that the dim flame of Swan Lake had flickered briefly and would remain forever extinguished.

That soon would drastically change. Act II was included in a February memorial program, freshly choreographed by Lev Ivanov and brilliantly danced by the acclaimed Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani.

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It attracted great interest — one critic raved: "What continuity, what plasticity, what velvety-soft movements, what tenderness and execution! Petersburg, arguably the foremost ballet venue in the world at the time, undertook a revival of the full work. Unfortunately, the product that emerged, while reviving Swan Lake's fortunes, was far removed from Tchaikovsky's original, as his brother Modeste revised the scenario and the conductor Riccardo Drigo substantially reorchestrated it, rearranged the order of the pieces to a sequence that is still commonly used and inserted orchestrations of three solo piano pieces from Tchaikovsky's 18 Morceaux , Op.

The mutilation process actually began with Tchaikovsky's himself even before the Moscow premiere when he accommodated Karpakova's demand for a pas de deux display piece comprising a leisurely introduction, a brief waltz, a quick scurry and a vigorous coda which became designated as 19a in the score and Sobeshchanskaya's wish for a Russian Dance which became 20a.

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Musical integrity aside, the Maryinsky revival was a huge success, due in no small part to the masterful choreography. As traced by Carol Lee, Petipa had a broad background to prepare for his key role — he had been trained in music, absorbed the colorful rhythms and steps of Spain, served as premier danseur in St.

Petersburg, and developed a gift for diplomacy to assuage the egos of his artists. Lee credits him with emphasizing abstraction over story-telling and expression over pantomime, while synthesizing superb physical skill with sumptuous spectacle, an approach that pleased audiences without compromising artistic integrity. While tailoring solos to his artists' particular qualities, he crafted exquisite kaleidoscopic patterns for his highly-trained corps de ballet the dancers who perform together rather than solo and won their loyalty with lifelong pensions.

Even so, he choreographed only the first and third acts of Swan Lake , entrusting the rest to his equally brilliant assistant Ivanov who is credited with taking inspiration from the score itself to create new movements and patterns as organic extensions of the musical principles. Chugoy gives as a primary example of Ivanov's innovation his integration of forces — rather than soloists performing on a bare stage or against an immobile group of dancers, Ivanov had them all interact as a sort of grand duet. Indeed, this seems analogous to the way in which a musical melody line blends and interacts with its harmony, so that the dancing operates on a level parallel to the score.

Anderson further salutes ever-changing patterns of the corps de ballet that emphasize the lines and shapes of the soloists, while their steps evoke the very nature of swans' preening and striving for flight and freedom. That, in turn seems a precursor of modern ballet in which leading ballerinas are dethroned as the raison d'etre so as to become just one of the protagonists who participates with the others. Sarah Kaufman notes that, without a reliable record of the original intention, Swan Lake necessarily is an evolving work of art, and indeed its greatest strength lies in forcing successive artists to offer new insights tailored to their times and colleagues.

Siegfried Paul Gerdt and with swans Maryinsky, Ballanchine agrees that the very notion of a permanent record of a ballet became technologically possible only long after Swan Lake's creation and that in any event it is entirely proper for a living work of art to reflect the proclivities of each generation of the public and the artists upon whom they depend.

Even so, most further productions were mere abridgements or isolated acts, as the first full presentations reached England only in and the US in While most are traditional, perhaps the most drastic adaptation is by South African Dada Masilo; according to reviews and press releases, "retooling the narrative to address issues of societal pressure, segregation and homophobia," it features a gay Siegfried, barefoot men in tutus and traditional African dances.

Many commentators now rank Swan Lake as the most popular of all ballets although the sheer ubiquity of the Nutcracker , which few ballet companies can resist mounting to replenish their coffers each winter holiday season, clearly has come to supersede it in the public eye.

Swan Lake (suite), Opa (Tchaikovsky, Pyotr) - IMSLP: Free Sheet Music PDF Download

Indeed, no other composer has placed three ballets in the standard repertoire and only Minkus, Delibes and Prokofiev can boast two , much less at the very top. The reasons given are many: its romantic theme of impossible love Anderson , a heroine who is entirely a creature of the imagination, at home in sea and sky but utterly lost in the real world with no control over her destiny, which ennobles her beauty Ballanchine , a leading role that manages to be not only brilliant and varied technically but sad, sweet and romantic Martin , and representing the ultimate embodiment of Romantic extremes — Odette is the vision of purity, nobility and poetry while her Odile form is corrupt, sinister and destructive — which presents the ultimate challenge to a ballerina as dancer and actress John Gruen.

Leo Lerman asserts that after the revival "every reigning ballerina measured her importance by the success of her Odette-Odile and every premier danseur did not believe himself established until he had partnered her. It's a bitter shame that Tchaikovsky never lived to enjoy Swan Lake's colossal success. Indeed his score has come to be universally lauded, despite others' constant attempts to "improve" it. Rather curiously, Tchaikovsky's symphonies, and especially the Fourth , were faulted in their time for containing ballet music although ironically, as Alexander Demidov notes, that very factor made them accessible to the public.

Yet as Reid stated: "The notion that theatre and concert room are watertight compartments is fusty nonsense. The two halves of the recurring "swan" theme The symphonic craft that Tchaikovsky brought to the theatre was as revitalizing as the touch of theatre that he brought to symphony writing. Clearly they used the term rather loosely, as the score hardly resembles the structures and thematic development of a genuine symphony.

More recent analyses point to the then-revolutionary use in a ballet score of recurrent leitmotifs primarily the "swan theme" that appears in manifold guises to signify character and to unify the entire work, together with a wide variety of textures and colorful orchestration to underline mood and sustain interest throughout a long evening. Indeed, Harold Schonberg deems Tchaikovsky's ballets to be close to opera, with the equivalent of arias, duets and ensembles scored for dancers rather than voices.

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Gruen praises its scope, as it "captures like no other the full range of human emotions from hope to despair, from terror to tenderness, from melancholy to ecstasy. But much of that level of analysis is rather subtle, especially when audiences are properly focused on the stage.

La source, Act II: No. 18, Divertissement. Variation

Far more palpable is the profusion of magnificent melodies that Tchaikovsky lavished on Swan Lake. The tunes comprising earlier ballet scores serve their immediate purpose well enough but float in one proverbial ear and out the other.


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  • Tchaikovsky's are unforgettable. Yet their charm and resilience occasionally prompts censure as shallow, prompting Reid to note that the bulky miniature score is a handy size "for throwing at the heads of critics who are lofty about Tchaikovsky because the milkman and butcherboy have been known to whistle him. In that light, Lee considers the striking variety of the tunes as exemplifying Tchaikovsky's cosmopolitan gift of combining Western and Slavic musical traditions, thus uniting the dichotomy of the two camps that divided Russian composers and theoreticians at the time.


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    Nor, unlike in The Nutcracker , does Tchaikovsky ever resort to stylized natural sound the tolling clock, the percussive battle or a wordless chorus to underline his purely instrumental musical conceptions. A further irony is that, as so often in art, Tchaikovsky's innovations impeded initial acceptance and success. In that regard, Demidov notes that Tchaikovsky's new to ballet principles of organization required innovative thinking that challenges choreographers to realize — and that at first they failed to penetrate the world of his musical-psychological drama.

    And yet, it would seem that by including the sections of sheer entertainment and diversion that had nothing to do with the story but were dances for their own sake, Tchaikovsky invested Swan Lake with enough traditional elements that should have ensured its immediate acceptance.

    In the longer view of history Goodwin concludes that, by treating ballet as a subject worthy of musical imagination, Tchaikovsky not only achieved an enduring masterwork but set a new standard for the role of music in ballet. So many of us came to love The Nutcracker and perhaps classical music in general through the ubiquitous Nutcracker Suite , comprising that ballet's Overture miniature , six distinctive "characteristic" dances and the Waltz of the Flowers — an authentic compilation arranged and conducted by Tchaikovsky himself to promote his new ballet preceding its premiere; indeed, the score of the suite was published seven months before the ballet was first performed.

    Yet despite what might be assumed from the titles of numerous recordings there is no comparable "official" compilation for Swan Lake. In Tchaikovsky had written to his publisher Peter Jurgenson that he wanted to save Swan Lake "from oblivion since it contains some fine things" and requested a copy of the complete piano score the only version published at the time to specify which numbers to include and their order. But he never mentioned it again and the project never materialized. Rather, in Jurgenson published a suite of unknown provenance consisting of six sections of the ballet.

    While many recordings follow Jurgenson's sequence of numbers 10, 2, 13d, 13e, 20 and 29, many others regard this as a mere springboard to be augmented with other portions or even for wholesale departures in favor of their own choices. The suite from Sleeping Beauty lies between the authenticity of the Nutcracker Suite and the uncertain origin of the Swan Lake suite — after the ballet was introduced Tchaikovsky sensed public interest but was afraid that, as an author, he "invariably makes mistakes in the appraisal of his creations" and couldn't choose excerpts "because the whole ballet is of equal merit," and so he entrusted the project to Aleksandr Ziloti, a distant relative and close associate.

    Following Tchaikovsky's wishes, Ziloti's suite comprised discrete numbers including the famous waltz from Act I rather than a potpourri but it only appeared posthumously in , perhaps paving the way for Jorgenson's Swan Lake suite the next year. Prior to the release of full recordings, the music of Swan Lake emerged gradually on disc over a half-century in a disparate array of excerpts.

    The earliest ones I've encountered are abridgements of three dances s 2, 13 and 20 by the Coldstream Guards , a British regimental band that boasts an extraordinary history from to the present including a superb series of releases from the dawn of acoustical recording. As with all their early discs, these boast tight ensemble and stirring articulation and still sound thrilling — if you don't mind flatulent tubas puffing away, as was customary to avoid the distortion caused by string basses in the acoustical process.

    The first set of extended excerpts appears to have been of the first five numbers of the suite played with enormous rhythmic heft by the London Philharmonic led with vast excitement by John Barbirolli , concluding with a manically fast "Hungarian Dance" perhaps to fit onto four generously-filled 12" sides. In the listings below, the numbers correspond to those in the full orchestral score, as designated in the attached outline. While most provide a fine introduction, five are of especial interest, as they presumably benefit from the insights provided by their conductors' extensive backgrounds in ballet:.

    Although he primarily would be famed for his pioneering and idiomatic Haydn recordings including the first complete stereo set of the symphonies and revivals of a dozen forgotten operas , Dorati devoted much of his early career to leading the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the American Ballet Theatre. Thus it seems rather surprising that while the overall pacing of his Swan Lake set is more moderate than Barbirolli, many tempos still seem quite fast for dancing, and while the pulse is mostly steady he floors the accelerator at the end of several pieces and draws out the notes at the end of each clause of the mazurka 23 — a nice touch for listening but seemingly confusing in the context of a stage presentation.

    Presumably to accommodate the side length limitation several numbers are abridged. Although the order of the pieces is scrambled, the groupings on the third and fifth sides fit well together and transitions between the other sides are irrelevant, as they were not intended to be heard in rapid succession as on modern transfers, since the requirement of changing discs at the time provided built-in pauses.

    Even so, the selection is unusual, omitting several favorite portions: the haunting swan theme other than in its strained form in the finale 29 , the Act I waltz 2 , the Hungarian dance 20 and the gentle apotheosis that concludes the finale, which here ends abruptly with a tacked-on symphonic cadence.

    The uncredited notes to this album commend Diaghilev with creating what is now considered the standard version of Swan Lake for his company's production and goes on to attribute to the tempos and phrasings of this recording the authenticity and authority of that tradition. Thus, while others feel compelled to goose the Act III characteristic dances to wild conclusions, here they accelerate gently and moderately, prudently tempering a yearning for exhilaration with keeping the spotlight on the dancers.

    The fidelity, though, is disappointingly dull and thick for its time. Unlike the other conductors in this group who developed a solid foundation in ballet but then went on to more diversified and presumably more rewarding careers before inscribing their Swan Lake collections, Irving devoted his entire professional life to ballet — a decade with the Sadler Wells company and then an astounding 30 years with the New York City Ballet.

    La Source, Act 2, No. 22: Mazurka Sheet Music by Léo Clement Philibert Delibes

    There, he worked closely with luminaries who were elated with his collaboration: Martha Graham averred that he "knew how to get the music under the dancers' feet," George Balanchine said, "With our orchestra if you don't like what you see you can close your eyes and still hear a good concert," and New York Times senior music critic Harold Schonberg pronounced him "possibly today's foremost conductor of ballet. Yet he resists the temptation to scramble the chronology and presents the pieces strictly in their order on stage.

    Also unusual among severe abridgements is the intact presentation of nearly the entire final act, which, while accompanying the most essential part of the narrative, has the least appealing part of the music. Following in Dorati's professional footsteps, Kurtz served as the conductor of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo for a decade.

    Before that, he had accompanied the famed dancer Anna Pavlova for three years. Lest we forget that music marketing is a business, presumably to boost its sales appeal the LP cover gave prime billing to the relatively brief appearances of Yehudi Menuhin, Kurtz's far more famous guest soloist, in two of the most touching numbers — the Andante of the pas de deux 5b and the Pas d'action section of the Dances of the Swans 13e. Perhaps to expand Menuhin's role and warrant his publicity, Kurtz concludes with the rarely-heard Russian Dance which Tchaikovsky added to the score to accommodate Sobeshchanskaya and which features a lengthy slow introduction with characteristic Slavic fiddling that affords a more varied opportunity for solo display than the two other pieces.

    His tempos tend toward extremes more than his peers', raising intriguing speculation as to whether this is an accurate representation of how he led pit orchestras during actual stagings or an accommodation to the impact of a record that relies entirely upon audio stimulation. Of all the conductors with roots in ballet, Monteux was the most famous, and deservedly so. Nearly a half century after moving on to a variegated career, Monteux cut this set with his favorite orchestra of the time, but the result is far from a mere feat of longevity and his age 87 never shows.

    While tempos tend to be somewhat more deliberate than usual, the aura is only slightly autumnal, as each selection is infused with vitality and warmth, a tangible expression of the deep feeling of humanity Monteux inspired in both colleagues and audiences, which the orchestra reciprocates with gorgeous playing. Perhaps as a sign of respect for them, rather than importing a marquee outside superstar the violin solos are played — beautifully — by the London Symphony concertmaster Hugh Maguire. Two more selections are intriguing to me as well:.

    The orchestral score of Swan Lake was not published until the revival. Before that, the only available printed version was an arrangement for piano solo by Nikolay Kashkin, a critic, self-taught musician, fellow teacher and colleague of the composer. A young Debussy made a fascinating four-hand piano arrangement of s 20a, 21 and 22 in that, especially in the Russian Dance, effectively combines his own esthetic with the vastly different one of the composer.

    A second piano version of the full ballet and a duo-piano version of the suite, both by Eduard Langer, were issued in The Russian-born American couple of Vronsky and Babin cut Babin's own transcription for two pianos of the Act I waltz 2 in on a double-sided 78 included in an album of Tchaikovsky waltzes and they rerecorded it in stereo in Far from a straight-forward transcription, Babin begins with a lyrical development of the famous "swan theme," states the waltz calmly and then takes off with a passionate outburst and riveting vigor abounding in superb coordination with Vronsky , a deeply personal approach that a full ensemble could never emulate for its sheer agility and extreme liberties.

    While solo adaptations of the score tend to emphasize classical refinement, the greater density of the doubled resources of the duo-piano versions allows for more overt drama, although any keyboard version sacrifices the suppleness and variety of Tchaikovsky's engaging instrumentation for a rather thick and monotonous and unavoidably percussive sonority.

    I find this LP fascinating for multiple reasons. Stokowski makes no pretense of deferring to the demands of ballet and unabashedly treats the score as abstract emotion, constantly stretching the tempos for maximum impassioned inflection, spotlighting his soloists and swelling dynamics to define phrases. By doing so, he both illustrates the early criticism of the score and confirms the brilliance of Tchaikovsky's conception, which works quite well on its own, even when subjected to interpretive extremes.

    Rather than cherry-pick favorite highlights or adhere to the standard Jurgenson suite, he recalls early productions of only portions of the ballet by presenting just Acts II and III largely intact, but ordering the numbers according to the Langer piano reduction i. He also interpolates before the pas de deux coda a polka, presumed to be by Drigo, which is absent from both the Langer and Jurgenson scores. Stokowski favored a comparable approach to Sleeping Beauty , from which he recorded Aurora's Wedding , Diaghilev's reduction mostly of Act III, both in and in one of his final recordings in — with huge vitality at age 94!

    Finally, the original album RCA LM has added visual interest, as its insert of photos and an informative essay is graced with six drawings by a young, unknown New York commercial artist named Andy Warhol. Alas, they were produced with his blotted line technique and were barely visible and hard to reproduce, although I've tried with one. After a half-century, this magnificent recording finally moved beyond vinyl on a Cala CD.

    The arrival of LPs paved the way for recordings of the complete ballet. Yet the various editions, adaptations and "improvements" imposed upon the score throughout its history have challenged the notion of a definitive "complete" version. While timings generally can be useful to indicate relative tempo, those given here reflect the extent to which the full score has been trimmed from its length of about minutes.

    Delibes was second chorus master at the Paris Opera and had until then written operettas, songs and sacred music. A comparison of the music of the two composers greatly favoured Delibes, [1] whose contributions were considered "fresh and more rhythmic", with one critic suggesting that the whole ballet score should have been assigned to Delibes.

    La source was his first big success, marking him as an important composer for the ballet. In Nijinsky made his solo debut in the last act of La source at the Mariinsky. The ballet was revived in by Agrippina Vaganova to the Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Leningrad to her pupil Marina Semyonova — Marina Semyonova started to work on the scene from this ballet. A video of the La source pas de deux taken from the graduation performance of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre , St.

    Petersburg, may be found on YouTube, the choreography credited to Konstantin Sergeyev after Coppini and possibly created for Preobrajenskaya; the music is by Riccardo Drigo , composer of most of the additional dances added to the company's repertory in the early 20th century. Act 1. On her way to marry the Khan of Ghendjib, the beautiful Nouredda and her accompanying party rest by a stream in a rocky desert. Nouredda is thrilled and asks him to state whatever he wishes as his reward. He asks her to lift her veil so that he can see her face: in fury she orders that he be tied up and left to his fate.

    Act 2. In the grand palace gardens, where the court of Khan is awaiting Nouredda's arrival, entertainment is offered to the guests: a solo for the favourites and a dance for Circassian slaves. The visitor asks Nouredda to choose any of the gifts and she selects a jewelled flower. She dances, entrancing the Khan, who kneels in front of her and he implores her to become his wife.

    Act 3.