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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Considering how much it depends on orchestral colour, it is a astonishing how well Tchaikovsky’s ballet music comes off in piano-duet form, if the players are sympathetic and stylish. And the members of the Aurora Duo (Julia Severuss and Alina Luschtschizkaja) most certainly are both. In the Sleeping Beauty the cat duet is deliciously pictorialized and the gorgeous Panorama is beautifully poised over its gently rocking bass. The baby swans dance very daintily, and in the Nutcracker the duo’s crisp articulation in the Miniature Overture, Marche and Chinese Dance is perfectly precise, while the Sugar Plum Fairy enters to a timbre very like a celeste. Very good, clear recording too. Most enjoyable.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2008

Following the great sucess of his balletic masterpieces, the depressive Tchaikovsky, fearing that his music should fall into oblivion, prevailed upon his publisher to arrange for these transciptions. They were executed by several pianists including Rachmaninov and Siloti, and edited by the composer. As music for piano four-hands, they stand up well—if only one could divorce one’s mind from playing the orchestral versions alongside.

Frank Behrens
Brattleboro Reformer, January 2008

Tchaikovsky—Possibly the three most frequently performed ballets are all by Tchaikovsky: “Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.”

Having heard so many recordings of the complete scores and of the suites, I had reached the saturation point—until a Naxos CD came my way, titled “Ballet Suites (Transcriptions for Piano Four Hands).” Loving piano transcriptions of orchestral works as I do, I eagerly played it and was delighted.

Here are five excerpts from “Sleeping Beauty” (transcribed by Sergey Rachmaninoff, revised by others), six from “Swan Lake” (Edouard Langer) and eight from “The Nutcracker” (Stepan Esipoff). They are played by the Aurora Duo: Julia Severus and Alina Luschtschizkaja. The program notes have much to say about the ballets but nothing about the transcriptions. Well, I suppose they speak for themselves.

This CD is a lot of fun and highly recommended.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2008

The provenance of these versions of Tchaikovsky’s ballet suites is authentic, the orchestral parts arranged for four hands at one piano having the composer’s blessing. In the case of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake the composer was much involved with the finished product, engaging none other than the young Rachmaninov to undertake the Sleeping Beauty transcription. At the time they would have given the composer considerable sales of sheet music for domestic consumption, as most of the music is well within the orbit of talented amateurs. You could well imagine the fun such pianists would have had, particularly if they had seen the ballet first. That was all before the age of radio and recordings when the only way to repeat your favourite music was through such transcriptions. But what of today’s audience who have ready access to the real thing in brightly-lit orchestral sound? Well I guess that the disc will be a curiosity, and may yet encourage students to dig out a copy of the music to tone up their duo skills. The present performances come from the Aurora Duo—Julia Severus and Alina Luschtschizkaja—both former students of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. There are some nice touches, with the imitation of a celesta sounding very authentic in Nutcracker. But as with orchestral recordings I prefer the use of tempos that can be used by dancers, the Aurora taking liberties that I cannot always understand, though others may find such freedom rather engaging. On the other hand I wish there had just been a little more rhythmic manipulation—as you would find in the theatre—in the characteristic dances where the dancers need time to inject the required humour. I am probably too choosy, the performances coming close to giving me unexpected pleasure. The sound quality is good.

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