This two-disc set marks the beginning of a new project devoted to Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores. We start the survey with the complete score of The Sleeping Beauty, recorded on SACD. Swan Lake and The Nutcracker will follow in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Tchaikovsky was approached by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1888 about a possible ballet adaptation of Charles Perrault’s La Belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty). The vision was to stage the production in the style of Louis XIV, allowing the musical fantasy to run high and melodies to be written in the spirit of Lully, Bach, and Rameau. This proposal for a fairy-tale ballet rooted firmly in both the rococo and baroque periods appealed to Tchaikovsky, and The Sleeping Beauty was premiered in 1890, with choreography by Petipa, the principal choreographer of his day.

TCHAIKOVSKY The Sleeping Beauty. James Ehnes, Robert de Maine, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Neeme Jarvi. Chandos SACDTCHAIKOVSKY The Sleeping Beauty. James Ehnes, Robert de Maine, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Neeme Jarvi. Chandos SACDView or buy

Elaborately constructed, the ballet places its focus undeniably on the two main conflicting forces of good (the Lilac Fairy) and evil (Carabosse). Each has a representative leitmotif, which runs through the entire ballet, serving as an important thread to the underlying plot. Tchaikovsky’s use of what, at the time, were considered new and unorthodox instrumental combinations went on to inspire a new generation of composers, among them Stravinsky, who declared The Sleeping Beauty to be Tchaikovsky’s chef d’œuvre.

The Sleeping Beauty is here performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Neeme Järvi, who is celebrating two major milestones this year: a thirty-year recording career with Chandos Records, and his own seventy-fifth birthday. Orchestra and conductor are joined by the pre-eminent violinist James Ehnes, one of the most dynamic and exciting performers in classical music today.

Neeme JarviBenjamin EalovegaNeeme Järvi recording Tchaikovsky, with Robert deMaine, June 2012 (096), by Henning Målsnes

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