Russian Dance for Violin and Orchestra

One of the most celebrated ballets in world literature, THE SWAN LAKE remains the most famous ballet by PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY. Through it, the composer broke with the previously traditional notions of this genre as a stage diversion of spectacular virtuosic dances and transformed it into a lyrical drama that did not yield in its musical development to operatic dramaturgy. The plot is based on motifs from a Russian folktale and an ancient German legend retold by Johann Karl August Musäus, linked to the timeless theme of the power of love overcoming an evil curse.

The premiere on March 4th,  1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow received a lukewarm reception – the choreography was criticised as lacking in imagination and the music seemed too complicated and ‘Wagnerian’, even the names Odette and Odile were considered ‘too German’. In the following years the work underwent several revisions at the request of the ballerinas for new dances or solo performances, and Tchaikovsky wrote new music for these changes in choreography. One of the new excerpts is THE RUSSIAN DANCE, composed for the prima ballerina Pelageya Karpakova, which is added in the third act after No. 20, as No. 20a. It was after Tchaikovsky’s death that the work’s real great success came – on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on February 17th,  1895, with choreography by the celebrated Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, which became a classic benchmark for hundreds of balletmasters in later productions around the world. For this production, the original score was edited by the Imperial Theatre’s chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo. Over the time, it became a tradition to freely interpret Tchaikovsky’s original score – changing the sequence of some excerpts, even adding fragments of the composer’s non-ballet music. The Russian Dance, beautifully virtuosic for both the ballerina and the solo violinist, soon became a piece in its own right, first published as a separate score for solo violin and orchestra, probably as an appendix when the full score of the ballet was first printed by Tchaikovsky’s publisher Pyotr Jurgenson in Moscow in 1895.

The performance of the Russian Dance from Swan Lake by Mincho Minchev with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dobrin Petkov was released on a record by Balkanton, 1985.

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