About this Recording
8.550324-25 - TCHAIKOVSKY: Nutcracker (The) / GLAZUNOV: Les Sylphides
English 

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)
The Nutcracker/Der Nußknacker/Casse-noisette

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (1865 - 1936)
Les Sylphides

Tchaikovsky found no particular attraction in the subject proposed to him for what was to be his last ballet, The Nutcracker and the Mouse-king, based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. The choreographer Marius Petipa and the Imperial Theatre Directorate commissioned the work in 1891, and the composer worked on the score during a foreign tour that took him, as a conductor, to Paris and to America. The most famous dance in the ballet, the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, caused Tchaikovsky some initial difficulty, but in Paris he found a new instrument ideal for his purpose, the celesta, a keyboard metallophone invented by Auguste Mustel in 1886, and by June he had sketched out the whole work.

While it was Petipa who had proposed the subject for the ballet, the choreography of the first production at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 18th December 1892 was left to his assistant Ivanov. Of this version only the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy and the Prince has survived, while a number of later versions include choreography by Balanchine, Grigorovich, Cranko, Nureyev and Flemming Flindt. The Nutcracker Suite was arranged by Tchaikovsky for concert performance in St. Petersburg in March 1892, nine months before the staging of the ballet. It was an immediate success, each number except one being encored. The ballet itself was not so well received. It was presented as a double-bill with Tchaikovsky's opera lolanta, a work that proved more satisfactory to the Tsar and his subjects. Since then, however, the ballet has become an annual favourite, with its Christmas setting and easily intelligible series of dances.

CD1
The Nutcracker is introduced by a miniature Overture, scored without cello or double-bass (1). The curtain rises on the living-room of the President of the Council of a German state in the eighteenth century. The President and his friends are decorating the Christmas-tree, to the sound of a violin melody (2). The candles are extinguished and the children come in, approaching the tree and marching in play (3). They join in a lively galop (4) and at this point a strange elderly man with a patch over one eye comes into the room. The children draw back, until they see the presents he has brought. Drosselmeyer, the newcomer, has a pretty doll for Clara, the daughter of the house, and a toy soldier for her brother Franz (5). They dance a waltz, ending in a more rapid dance (6). When the grown-ups refuse permission for the children to take their presents from the room, Clara begins to cry and Franz proves refractory and obstinate. Drosselmeyer takes out of his pocket a nutcracker, a joint present for the two children, and after explaining how to use it, hands it to Clara. After much protest, Clara eventually gives the nutcracker to Franz, who tries at once to crack the biggest nut and breaks the nutcracker. Clara sadly picks it up and lays it, with her new doll, in a cradle, while Franz quickly forgets and he and his friends start playing with toy trumpets and drums. The festivities are brought to an end, the guests leave and Clara and Franz are sent to bed.

The room is left in darkness, lit only by the moonlight from outside. Clara creeps in to see her broken Nutcracker once more and is terrified when mice emerge from the wainscot. She jumps onto a chair, while the mice scurry around. As the orchestra reaches a climax, the Christmas-tree grows enormous and the everyday world is transformed, a brief oboe figure arousing a toy sentry, who, receiving no reply to his challenge, wakens his Gingerbread Soldier companions, who engage in a fierce battle with the Mice, led by the Mouse-king, the soldiers commanded by the Nutcracker. The Mice are about to win when Clara intervenes, hurling her shoe at the Mouse-king, who sinks dead to the floor, while his army withdraws. The Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome Prince and invites Clara to travel with him to the Land of Sweets (7 & 8).

The second scene of the ballet takes us to a pine forest, where Clara and her Prince are welcomed by the Snow-King and Snow-Queen, who offer as entertainment the Dance of the Snowflakes (9 & 10). The following act is set in the Kingdom of Sweets, where Clara and the Prince are welcomed first by the Sugar-Plum Fairy, to be carried in a boat over a river of Rose-water. The Prince relates his adventures, with the episode of Clara's brave intervention in his struggle with the Mouse-king (11 & 12).

CD2
A series of character dances follows, a Spanish Chocolate-Dance, an Arabian Coffee-Dance, a Chinese Tea-Dance, a Russian Trepak and a Dance for Toy Trumpets, ended by the appearance of the old woman who lived in a shoe and her numerous offspring (1). Flowers of all colours join in the Waltz of the Flowers (2). The Prince and the Sugar-Plum Fairy dance a pas de deux, with a solo Tarantelle for the first and the famous dance accompanied by the celesta for the second (3), followed by a coda. All then join in the final dance, which leads to a closing Apotheosis for the Kingdom of Sweets, honey-bees and their Queen (4).

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov
Les Sylphides (Chopiniana)
Glazunov belongs to the generation of Russian composers after Tchaikovsky, able still further to heal the rift between the nationalists and those with a more formal musical training. He progressed rapidly as a private pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, who remained a firm friend, and collaborated with him in completing and editing for publication some of the compositions left unfinished by Borodin and Mussorgsky. For the ballet Glazunov provided three full-length original scores for Marius Petipa, Raymonda, staged at the Maryinsky Theatre in 1898 and set at the time of the Crusades, Les ruses d'amour, staged in St Petersburg in 1900 and based on a Watteau fête champetre, and The Seasons, also mounted in 1900.

The ballet Chopiniana is better known outside Russia as Les Sylphides. It was first staged at the Maryinsky Theatre in 1907 with choreography by Fokin and with Pavlova as prima ballerina. This first strongly Polish version opens with a ball-room scene, set to the Chopin Polonaise in A major, Opus 40 No.1, followed by the F major Nocturne, Opus 15 No.1, showing Chopin's feverish dreams during his fateful winter in Mallorca with his mistress George Sand, when tuberculosis threatened his life The C sharp minor Mazurka, Opus 50 No 3, celebrates a Polish wedding and the Waltz in the same key, Opus 64 No 2, allows the ballerina to appear not in Polish national costume but in traditional romantic dress. This version of the ballet ends with the Tarantella in A flat major, Opus 43, set understandably, in Naples, a city associated with the rapid whirling dance Fokin choreographed an extended version of the ballet in' 908 and in' 909 devised a further version for Dyagilev in Paris. It is generally the later versions of the ballet that remain in current repertoire both in Russia and abroad.

Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. The orchestra was first conducted by the Prague conductor František Dyk and in the course of the past fifty years of its existence has worked under the batons of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief.

Ondrej Lenard
Ondrej Lenard was born in 1942 and had his early training in Bratislava, where, at the age of 17, he entered the Academy of Music and Drama, to study under Ludovit Rajter. His graduation concert in 1964 was given with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and during his two years of military service he conducted the Army Orchestral Ensemble, later renewing an earlier connection with the Slovak National Opera, where he has continued to direct performances.

Lenard's work with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava began in 1970 and in 1977 he was appointed Principal Conductor. At the same time he has travelled widely abroad in Europe, the Americas, the Soviet Union and elsewhere as a guest conductor, and during his two years, from 1984 to 1986, as General Music Director of the Slovak National Opera recorded for Opus operas by Puccini, Gounod, Suchon and Bellini.

For Naxos Lenard has recorded symphonies and ballet music by Tchaikovsky and works by Glazunov, Johann Strauss II, Verdi and Rimsky-Korsakov.


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