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8.550246-47 - TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake (Complete Ballet) (Lenard)

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840 -1891)
Swan Lake (Complete Ballet)

Tchaikovsky's compositions for the theatre include three full-length ballets, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker. The first of these was commissioned by the Imperial Theatre Directorate in Moscow in 1875 and was first performed at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow on 4th March 1877, with choreography by the Austrian Wenzel Reisinger. The libretto, by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltzer was based on aversion of an old German fairy-tale, Der geraubte Schleier (The Stolen Veil), as retold by Johann Karl August Musäus. Tchaikovsky had composed ballet music for this story some years earlier, to entertain the children of his sister Sasha, married to Lev Davidov and settled at Kamenka in the Ukraine. Uncle Pyotr devised the whole entertainment, demonstrating to his three nieces and the other performers the steps and pirouettes required of them, while the swans themselves seem to have been represented by figures of wood. Some of the music for this modest work was used in the commissioned score, with elements from his first opera, The Voyevoda, the source of the Entr'acte for Act IV and for the final union of Siegfried and Odette. His second opera, Undine, provided the music with violin and cello solo in the Dance of the Swans at the end of Act II.

The first performance of Swan Lake was not a success. The public was accustomed to very much less substantial music, while various omissions and additions were made to the score. The choreography was unsatisfactory, the designers lacked imagination, the dancing was undistinguished and the conductor out of his depth. In the following years various further changes crept into the ballet. The work acquired a more satisfactory choreographic form in a staging in St. Petersburg in 1895, with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and has since then been mounted with varying choreographic interpretations, often based on the Petipa-Ivanov version, which made certain clear changes in the ballet as Tchaikovsky and his librettists had originally devised it. In particular a happy ending was substituted for the original tragic conclusion, in which Siegfried and Odette had been destroyed by Rotbart. Revisions to the libretto in 1895 were entrusted to the composer's brother Modest, to whom we owe such incidents as the appearance of Odette at the window in the third act, and the elimination of Odette's kind grandfather and wicked step-mother, the latter subsumed into the character of Rotbart, whose actions are now more intelligible.

[CD 1] The ballet opens, after an Introduction (1), with a scene set on the terrace of the palace of Prince Siegfried (2). The young prince is celebrating his birthday and coming of age, at a reception, and guests gather to congratulate him (3). The Prince's mother enters (4) and expresses some displeasure, telling Siegfried that the time has come for him to choose a bride. The guests are entertained by a young man and two girls in a Pas de Trois (5) and as the Prince's mother retires the company dances a formal waltz (6). An Intermezzo, is danced by Wolfgang, the drunken court chamberlain (7), a guest proposes a final goblet dance (8) and there is a peasant dance (9). At this point a flight of swans appears over the royal park, an event marked in the orchestra by the oboe melody that had opened the ballet and in the harp arpeggios that accompany it (10). Siegfried's friend Benno suggests a swan-hunt, and the Prince and his companions leave the festivities.

The second act opens with the swan theme, the scene a moonlit lakeside in the forest, where the swans swim on the lake (11). Benno and the hunters come in, calling on Siegfried to follow, but the Prince lingers alone, to encounter Odette, the Swan Princess (12). She begs him for help to break the spell put on her by the wicked magician Rotbart. Only between midnight and dawn is she free to resume human shape and the bewitchment can only be ended by marriage with a mortal who must love no other. The sorcerer appears and Odette asks him to spare Siegfried, who now draws his cross-bow. Rotbart disappears and Siegfried invites Odette to the ball to be given at the palace the following day, when he must choose a bride (13). Although this is impossible, Odette begs Siegfried to be faithful to her, since he is her only chance of salvation. Siegfried's fellow-hunters hurry in, as the enchanted companions of Odette appear, and the Prince orders his friends not to harm the swans. In gratitude they dance before the hunter~ (14), and, as day dawns.

[CD 2] return to the lake, again under Rotbart's spell (1).

The third act is set in the palace, where a ball is being given at which Prince Siegfried must choose the one who is to be his wife. There is a long musical introduction (2), and a dance for the corps de ballet, followed by a dance of dwarves (3), after which the guests are seen assembling (4). The six candidates for the hand of the Prince are brought forward, followed by an unknown couple, Rotbart and his daughter Odile (5), the latter in appearance identical with Odette, although dressed in black, not in white. The candidates for the hand of Siegfried dance a series of variations (6). Siegfried, believing that it is Odette that has come to the palace, dances with Odile in a demanding set of variations, after which the guests pay their respects in a series of national dances (7,8,9 & 10), a dramatically irrelevant divertissement expected by contemporary audiences. Siegfried declares that he will marry the daughter of the mysterious guest, but at this moment Odette is seen at the window. As Siegfried pledges his troth to Odile, a clap of thunder is heard, and Rotbart and Odile disappear in triumph, while Siegfried falls senseless to the ground (11).

The fourth act opens with Siegfried at the lake-side (12), while the swan-maidens await their princess (13). There is a dance of cygnets (14), followed by the appearance of Odette, who tells Siegfried of her coming death, caused by his treachery (15). Rotbart calls up a storm to destroy the swan-maidens, but Siegfried, disregarding his own life, struggles against the magician, breaks the spell and is united with Odette, now in human shape (16), although in the version Tchaikovsky himself wrote the ballet ends with the drowning of hero and heroine, after which the storm dies down, and the light of the moon is seen through the clouds, while swans appear again on the lake, now calm once more.

Ondrej Lenárd
Ondrej Lenárd 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.

Lenárd'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 fn 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 Lenárd has recorded symphonies and ballet music by Tchaikovsky and works by Glazunov, Johann Strauss II, Verdi and Rimsky-Korsakov. For Marco Polo he has recorded Havergal Brian's colossal Gothic symphony to great critical acclaim in the international music press.

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