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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
January 15
Did You Guess?
Besides The Sleeping Beauty, Tchaikovsky produced two other ballets.  One was Swan Lake, but that's not a Christmas ballet. The answer to the question is
The Nutcracker!
Can You Guess?
Tchaikovsky wrote another ballet that is usually associate with the Christmas holidays.  Can You Guess that famous ballet?  (Crunch!)
What Else
1715 - Georg Christoph Wagenseil, Austrian composer, was born.

1732 - Premiere of Handel's opera Ezio.   It played 5 performances.

1775 - Giovanni Battista Sammartini, Italian composer, died.

1908 - Roberta Bitgood US hymnist, was born.

1924 - Premiere of S. Prokofiev's Chout Symphonic Suite, Op. 21a. F.

1947 - Premiere of Wolfgang Korngold's Violin Concerto in D, by the St. Louis Symphony conducted by Vladimir Golschmann. Violinist, Jascha Heifetz.

1955 - Peter Coukis US composer, was born.

1955 - Melody Of Love, by the Four Aces, was released.

1958 - Premiere of Samuel Barber's opera Vanessa at NYC's Metropolitan Opera.

1966 - Barbara Ann, by the Beach Boys , was released.

1976 - Premiere of Paul Chihara's Missa Carminum for a capella chorus, in LA, CA.

1994 - Premiere of Ellen T. Zwilich's Fantasy for orchestra. JoAnn Falletta conducting the Long Beach Symphony, CA.
Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia January 15, 1890.

Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky was one of the nineteenth century's greatest musical talents and a master of ballet music.

He did not start serious musical training until after he had tried  a career in law.  He studied at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, and after graduation taught harmony at the Moscow Conservatory.
Piotr Tchaikovsky
The Sleeping Beauty
In the 1880's, the Russian Imperial Ballet was supported by the Tsar. Ivan Alexandrovitch Vsevolozhsky, who had been named director of the Imperial Theatres in 1881, was a skilled administrator, playwright and essayist as well as a talented visual artist capable of designing costumes.   The company's choreographer was Marius Petipa.

By 1888, audiences had stopped coming to the theaters, and  Vsevolozhsky was considering firing Petipa.  He decided to give him one last chance with Perrault's story, The Sleeping Beauty..  The work could display the talents of fine soloists Petipa had trained, and Petipa's knowledge of classical dance. It would be an elaborate, 'no expense spared' production designed to rekindle the public's interest.  Petipa was at first opposed to the concept, but came accept it.

Before Vsevolozhsky, many independent artists worked on a ballet.  Set designers, costumers, undistinguished composers, and choreographers each worked in their own areas with little or no collaboration.  Vsevolozhsky instituted production councils that produced works with more continuity.  For The Sleeping Beauty he decided to act as both librettist and costume designer.

Vsevolozhsky wrote to Tchaikovsky in May 1888, telling him of his concept, and suggested music inspired by Lulli, Bach and Rameau.  He sent Tchaikovsky a complete libretto, but it was evidently lost in transit, misplaced or ignored. Three months later another was sent.  Tchaikovsky read it through and replied, "I should like to tell you straight away how charmed and enthusiastic I am. The idea appeals to me and I wish nothing better than to write the music for it." There was no formal contract.  

Tchaikovsky wanted to ensure the choreographer's full participation before music was composed. November 6, 1888, there was a meeting at Vsevolozhsky's house where Petipa presented complete instructions for the Prologue of the ballet, and he fleshed out the rest of the work at two more meetings in December and January. Although detailed, the instructions were written before Petipa had finalized the ballet in his mind. 

Petipa usually worked with house composers.  They would change music mid-rehearsal to suit him. Tchaikovsky away from the theater, but must have had contact with Petipa from time to time before completing the work. He stuck to the spirit of the instructions, but added his own inventiveness.

Tchaikovsky worked quickly.  He completed the overture and prologue and most of the outline of acts one and two in three weeks. He delivered his final versions of the score to the Maryinski Theater act by act as he completed them. Conductor Riccardo Drigo revised the music, added marks of expression and indicated tempi. Some of the edits were probably made at Petipa's urging on first listening to the score, others seem to have occurred closer to the premiere as it was realized that dance sections may not be finished or that the ballet was running too long.

Rehearsals for The Sleeping Beauty began in August 1889. Petipa prepared much of the ballet at home before arriving at the studio. He had a violinist and pianist play the music repeatedly as he made patterns with papier maché figures. He would  notate these patterns and arrive at rehearsals with notes. He  composed the dances eight bars at time.

The ballet's premiere, originally scheduled for December 3, 1889, was delayed until January 15, 1890 due to problems with sets. Reviews in the press were mixed. Some said the production was too lavish or the music too serious. Tchaikovsky felt he had composed "some of my best music" for the ballet, but was embarrassed by the Tsar's dismissal of the score as "very nice." He wrote in his diary "The Lord be with him." After the first two performances Tchaikovsky received 3,000 rubles and a bonus of 2,000 more for having created such an excellent score.

The ballet was popular with the public and enjoyed continuous performances in Russia. By November 1892 it had been presented 50 times, an occasion that was marked by the dancers presenting a crown to Tchaikovsky on stage of the Maryinski Theatre.
The Ballet on DVD
The Disney Movie
Sleeping Beauty
From Publishers Weekly
So perfect are the Pre-Raphaelite details and gestures that it's easy to imagine Kinuko Craft's (Adventures of Tom Thumb) paintings hanging in a gallery. Her husband Mahlon Craft's enhanced version of Sleeping Beauty affords wide scope for the artist's romanticism. In a new episode at the outset, for example, the queen meets a frog that predicts the birth of her daughter; in the facing art, the queen, dressed in a diaphanous white gown, languidly loosens her hair ribbon, while the frog, brought forward by cunning attention to light and detail, waits to speak to her. The backdrop is a dark forest, and the effect is properly otherworldly. Farther on, when the king and queen discover the evil fairy's handiwork, the good fairy comes to ease their grief; Craft portrays the fairy descending from gilded clouds, driving a chariot drawn by dragons. The fairies are transparent, like spirits; the evil fairy is a gothic horror in black draperies. Aurora is ethereally lovely, the landscapes magnificent and the palace splendid. Families aiming to assemble a library of classic fairy tales may well settle on this as the definitive Sleeping Beauty. Ages 5-8.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Perhaps the perfect CD in tempo from the dancer's point of view.  Link Has Music Samples.
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