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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Swan Lake

Liliana C. Duran

Introduction to Music Music 1010 Prof. Stephen Voorhees March 18, 2014


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer whom was internationally recognized. He was born on May 7, 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Vyatka, Russia, from a family of 6 siblings. Even though he showed early interest in music when he started to take piano lessons at 4, there was no much opportunity for a musical career in Russia at that time and there was not public educational system either, therefore his parents, Alexandra Andreyevna dAssier (mother) and Ilya Petrovich Tchaikovsky (father), made him attend the Imperial School of Jurisprudence when he was 10 hoping he would become a civil servant, which he did, Tchaikovsky worked for the Ministry of Justice for 4 years, during this time he attended as many operas and concerts as he could and his interest in music increased. By the age of 21 Tchaikovsky decided to take music lessons, he started first at the Russian Musical Society and a few months later he attended the Saint Petersburg Conservatory where he studied piano, flute, organ, music theory, and composition from 1862 to 1865. He became the first famous graduate composer of the conservatory and his work was performed in 1865 for the first time. After graduating from the conservatory he was invited to become a member of the new Moscow Conservatorys faculty staff as a harmony professor, during those years he taught and also composed some of his famous pieces, including Romeo and Juliet (1869), the Swan Lake ballet (1875) and the Symphony No. 4 (1878). Tchaikovsky officially left the Moscow Conservatory in 1878, he thought teaching was taking precious time that he could spend composing. After withdrawing the conservatory he spent the rest of his career composing. He was able to leave the Moscow Conservatory due to his relationship with Nadezhda Von Meck, a wealthy widow fan of his work, which became his patroness and provided him of a monthly allowance until his death so he wouldnt have to worry about working in anything else but his compositions, Tchaikovsky dedicated his 4th Symphony to her.

The agreement they had implied that they would never meet personally, they only communicated through letters, their partnership lasted for a little bit over 13 years. Besides his musical career, his life was full or personal crisis anxiety and depression, especially close to his death, and starting by his own mothers death when he was 14 years old. As an attempt to avoid social discrimination for his homosexuality, Tchaikovsky married a young girl who was obsessed with him, Antonia Ivanovna Milyukova in 1877. The marriage was a disaster, Tchaikovsky left her a few weeks after the wedding, and the situation put him through a nervous breakdown that pushed him to a failed suicide attempt. Despite the drama surrounding his personal life, his compositions and musical work still remain nowadays, and have positioned him as one of the most important composers of the Romantic Period, his style was considered to be a mix-up between his own Russian culture and musical background and the western style. His complete set of compositions includes 169 pieces approximately: operas, ballets, concertos and cantatas that include the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat minor, Violin Concerto in D major, the Nutcracker - Waltz of the Flowers, Symphony No. 6, the Swan Lake Dance of the Swans, the Sleeping Beauty Waltz, etc. Tchaikovsky visited several countries throughout his career, by the end of it he made some appearances as conductor of his own work, being his most memorable one in 1891 during the inaugural concert of the Carnegie Hall in New York City. At age of 53, and 10 days after his sixth Symphonys premiere, Tchaikovsky died in Saint Petersburg, Russia on November 6, 1893. While the official cause of his death is declared to be the cholera, many rumors imply that his death was self-inflicted by drinking poison, the reason behind it could be his humiliation after a sexual scandal with his classmates from the School of Jurisprudence, however, there is no written evidence to confirm this theory.

The Swan Lake Suite

Instruments: Oboes (mostly), violins and french horns are used for the main melody,
harp, and the rest of the orchestra for accompaniment.

Min. 00:00 -3:17

Melody/ texture: homophonic melody

Rhythm/Meter: Quadruple meter

Harmony: Contras between manor and major scale.

Form: Moderate pace, the same melody is played more than once, its based on repetition and variation (A-B-A-B-A)

Expression: Pianissimo at the beginning, contrast to loud and more energetic sound.

Min 3:17 - 7:45

Melody/texture: Conjunct, homophonic melody. Ascending and descending melody

Rhythm/Meter: Triple meter, fast tempo.

Harmony: Consonant, chromatic, all in major scale.

Form: Allegro and vivace, ternary (A-B-A).

Expression: Forte during the first movement, then pianissimo, then forte again.

Min 7:45 10:05

Melody/Texture: Mostly homophonic, in some very short parts polyphonic and

Rhythm/Meter: Triple meter, Waltz.

Harmony: Chromatic harmony, consonant

Form: Andante, based on repetition, same melody played by different instruments.

Expression: Piano, dynamic contrast between piano, pianissimo and suddenly mezzo forte.

Min 10:05 11:38

Melody/Texture: Mostly homophonic and somewhat heterophony.

Rhythm/Meter: Duple meter, steady tempo until the end of the movement when it starts getting a little faster.

Harmony: Contras between major and minor scales. Descending harmony.

Form: Repetition and a bit of variation, mostly repetitive.

Expression: Piano, very soft dynamics increasing to mezzo forte by the end of it.

Swan Lake ballet

The Swan Lake ballet was originally composed by Tchaikovsky from 1875-1876 under the name of The Lake of the Swans, it was performed for the first time in March 1877 by the Bolshoi Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow. Before composing the Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky studied ballet composers Ludwig Minkus and Cesare Pugni, as well as some other specialist composers of that time like Adolphe Adams, from whom he learned the leitmotif technique, which consists in the association of certain themes to specific characters, and used it in the Swan Lake ballet. Julius Reisinger, who choreographed the first presentation, intended to remove different number she considered unsuitable for ballet, but Tchaikovsky objected to those changes and everything that was removed was reinstated. After its first performance, the ballet was unsuccessful, it was thought to be too complicated to dance and the orchestra and dcor of the performance were highly criticized, Tchaikovskys brother Modesto, blamed its failure to the poverty of the production and the Balletmasters (Julius Reisinger) lack of imagination. The ballet continued to be performed for a whole year, making a total of 41 presentations, all of them with the same result. In 1880 and 1882 Peter Hansen tried to revive the ballet with unsuccessful results in both attempts. It wasnt until after Tchaikovskys death, in 1893, that Marius Petipa along with Ricardo Drigo and theater choreographer Lev Ivanov, decided to revive the Swan Lake ballet with Modestos approval to modify its original version of the second act, which was performed later and received positive critics. Modest edited the libretto and changed the final to a non-so-tragic one that was well received by the audience. Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov continued working together on its revival which was premiered in January 27, 1895; one of the main factors that helped its success, was the fact that Odette was performed by Pierina Legnani, a ballet dancer with great technique, she caught the audience by executing a 32 fouettes en tournant (an extremely difficult ballet movement) during the final scene. Legnani set the bar for any ballet dancer to perform Odette after her, and that expectation remains until today.

After the revivals premiere, the Swan Lakes perception changed to be more positive and well-received from the audience. Petipas production and revival made it possible to make the Swan Lake a classic and very important part of ballet, he made Tchaikovskys composition stand out and helped people become aware and understand the complexity but also the beauty of such majestic ballet composition.

Listening: Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra Swan Lake Suite, conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev, performed and recorded at the Alte Oper Frankfurt, in 1991.

Tchaikovsky: A Biography, by Anthony Holden. -Swan Lake A History, an online article by the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet. -Wikipedia, P.I. Tchaikovsky article. Swan Lake article.