This 2010 recording of Tchaikovsky's eternally popular Swan Lake ballet, with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra might be ideal for dancing, but it is less ideal purely as a listening experience.
Rozhdestvensky's A-plus, totally complete performance
Swan Lake was the first of Tchaikovsky's three great ballets– works which added a new level of depth and sophistication to what had been a purely superficial art form. Today the music is so well-known and popular that it's impossible to comprehend the difficulties the composer experienced at early performances. Audiences found the music "too symphonic," and the dancers were put off by the prominence given to the orchestra which, they felt, distracted ballet fans from the action on stage. Of course, all of these supposed "defects" are precisely what we admire about the music today, and this elegant but exciting performance reveals the music in all of its glory.
This is the second instalment in our series devoted to Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets. The first recording, of The Sleeping Beauty, was praised upon its release, described by a reviewer in American Record Guide as ‘one of the finest I’ve heard’. Here Neeme Järvi and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra present the complete version of Swan Lake, with the pre-eminent James Ehnes lending his magic to the violin solos. This was Tchaikovsky’s first full-length ballet, but its premiere in 1877, staged at Moscow’s Bolshoy Theatre, was by no means a resounding success. According to most accounts, the choreography was inept, the shabby sets and costumes were borrowed from other productions, and the orchestral playing was poor. Most ballet companies today base their productions on the 1895 revival by the distinguished choreographer Marius Petipa. Although this revival has been seen as more ‘danceable’, one may argue that the overall cuts and reordering ultimately destroyed Tchaikovsky’s ground plan of drama and tonality. Here we present Tchaikovsky’s original Bolshoy score of twenty-nine numbers across four acts, along with two supplementary numbers which Tchaikovsky provided not long after the premiere.
Signum’s fourth disc with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra continues their series of the great core Russian repertoire. Featuring the Orchestral suite of one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballets Swan Lake, complemented with Rachmaniov’s final composition Symphonic Dances.
Don't be put off that this Nutcracker is played by the Utah Symphony. It is first class in every way in the glorious sound that Vanguard lavished on the orchestra.Maurice Abravanel was one of the most significant theater conducters of the 20th century. You can feel immediately that he grasps the balletic nature as well as the symphonic majesty of Tchaikovsky's score. The interpretation is brisk, light, nimble, well balanced and masterfully cohesive. Right from the beginning of the overture you will understand what I mean! The playing of the Utah Symphony is transparent, clean, and full of color. You can tell they enjoy playing it! I bought this recording years ago on Vanguard Everyman LPs. The CD transfer is excellent. Grab the it while you can still get it!
Never has a ballet recording been so phenomenal and at the same time doesn't quite meet my criteria for selecting the definitive ballet recording–that is, the quality of the recording itself aside, GENERALLY, the music also has to be performed by the orchestra that premiered it and that the orchestra has had a long tradition of playing it. Such is the case with Abravanel's 60s recording of Swan Lake.
- By Gary -