# Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
# Orchestra: L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
# Conductor: Ernest Ansermet
# Vinyl (1959 / 2011)
# Number of Discs: 3
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 14
# Label: Speakers Corner / Decca
# Size: 24/96kHz (2.76GB) and 16/44.1 (786MB)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Server: File Factory
From the Speakers Corner website:
“His symphonies are ballets, his ballets are symphonies.” Such has often been said about Tchaikovsky’s lengthy dance compositions. This opinion is not entirely due to the fact that these works had to please the audience without being danced to after Diaghilev’s legendary ballet company was dissolved. Rather more, Tchaikovsky’s instrumental and incidental music is pervaded by movement and dance rhythms that act as a musical scaffolding. Almost as legendary as the incomparable heritage of Russian music is the reputation of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, whose recordings are famed for their lush and saturated sound colouring.
Ansermet transforms the score into a veritable firework of sound, without ever straining after cheap effects by means of a thunderous sound; the strings are clean and warm in all registers, the brass volleys blare out keenly, and the percussion is dauntlessly resolute. This performance and Decca’s customary excellent sound recording render great homage to this music. All the more reason to be glad that this particular “Sleeping Beauty” has been awakened at long last.
This Sleeping Beauty, arguably the finest of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, was recorded in 1959 with Ernest Ansermet on the podium leading L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. These meticulously manufactured Speakers Corner LPs demonstrate well what Kenneth Wilkinson and colleagues achieved with their famed “Decca tree” stereo microphone array. The sound represents the best of the ffss era. Strings are beautifully textured, always a plus in Tchaikovsky when violins and cellos soar in unison a couple of octaves apart. The brass section has a crisp bite and woodwinds are truthfully represented, both the pleasant woodiness of the clarinets and the not-so-pleasant tartness of the 1959 OSR’s oboes. The harp is tactile, and small percussion instruments are easily heard over an orchestral tutti as they are in life. Ansermet had a gift for bringing this sort of music to life. Complete ballet scores on disc or in concert can get repetitive — that’s why there are so many ballet suites — but the conductor here takes full responsibility for presenting a cogent narrative. Tempo choices are perfect. – Andrew Quint, theabsolutesound.com
While ballet enjoyed a golden age in the mid-nineteenth century, it is generally acknowledged that the music accompanying that medium did not flourish in tandem with the other components. Even in so celebrated a work as Giselle, only a balletomane would not be hard pressed to hum one of its tunes. This is by no means a criticism, for the music specified for a production was to be functional. It can be argued that Tchaikovsky is the first composer of great ballet scores, infusing them with his trademark tunefulness, emotion, and drama. Long an admirer of dance, the composer placed the same amount of effort into his three great dance scores as he would into his symphonic and operatic works. For the first time, suites from the ballets could be performed sans staging and choreography for a purely musical experience.
After the less-than-promising 1877 debut of Swan Lake, marred by a largely amateur production, over a decade lapsed before the composer was commissioned by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg to supply music for a ballet on the Perrault fairy tale, The Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky threw himself arms-deep into the project. Not only was the composer again on happy turf, he was currently in a state of delight by the occasional presence of the three-year old daughter of a friend’s servant; despite his celebrated melancholy, children seemed to tap a joyful vein in Tchaikovsky, the feeling reciprocated in his capacity to be mischievous or silly at their level. The little girl’s proximity fed a spirit of fantasy which transmitted to this most lighthearted of the composer’s scores. Most musicologists and historians concede that Sleeping Beauty is the most perfectly wrought of Tchaikovsky’s three ballet scores, classic in its restraint, especially when compared with the hyper-Romanticism of its predecessor Swan Lake or the seasonal whimsy of The Nutcracker, yet possessing the right amount of color and panache to render it pure Tchaikovsky; its waltz remains a Pops favorite.
The well-known story of the ballet opens with Princess Aurora’s christening at the royal court. Rejoicing quickly fades with the uninvited appearance of the evil fairy Carabosse, who places a curse on the princess, preordaining that at 16 Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into an enchanted sleep. This comes to pass but the spell is at long last broken by Prince Charming, who forges through barriers of enchantment to kiss and awaken Aurora. The enlarged final act is a wedding celebration at which many other celebrated fairy tale characters are present. This act alone is often performed as Aurora’s Wedding.
Sleeping Beauty was premiered to great acclaim and success, with choreography by the great Marius Petipa at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 1, 1890. In 1921, Diaghilev remounted the work for a notable London production. – Wayne Reisig, allmusic.com
01 – Introduction / Prologue (beginning)
02 – Prologue (conclusion) / Act 1 (beginning)
03 – Act 1 (continued)
04 – Act 1 (conclusion)
05 – Act 2 (beginning)
06 – Act 2 (continued)
07 – Act 2 (conclusion)
08 – Act 3
Recorded by Roy Wallace at Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland in March and April 1959
Remastered by Tony Hawkins and Ray Staff at Air Studios, London
Produced by James Walker
All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5
Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio Reso-Mat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface
Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only)
Ripper’s note: These albums had no timings on the labels or in the booklet. Aside from the visible rills on sides 2 and 5, there are no separate tracks. Each side is one track.
Because of this, the tracks as included here are strictly a ‘best guess’.
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