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Tchaikovsky's compositions for the theatre include three full-length ballets, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker. The first of these was commissioned by the Imperial Theatre Directorate in Moscow in 1875 and was first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on 4 March 1877, with choreography by the Austrian Wenzel Reisinger. The libretto, by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltzer was based on a version of an old German fairy-tale, Der geraubte Schleier (The Stolen Veil), as retold by Johann Karl August Musäus. Tchaikovsky had composed ballet music for this story some years earlier, to entertain the children of his sister Sasha, married to Lev Davidov and settled at Kamenka in the Ukraine. Uncle Pyotr devised the whole entertainment, demonstrating to his three nieces and the other performers the steps and pirouettes required of them, while the swans themselves seem to have been represented by figures of wood. Some of the music for this modest work was used in the commissioned score, with elements from his first opera, The Voyevoda, the source of the Entr'acte for Act IV and for the final union of Siegfried and Odette. His second opera, Undine, provided the music with violin and cello solo in the Dance of the Swans at the end of Act II.
A novel by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky | Read by Angela Rippon | NAXOS
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky must be regarded as the most popular of all Russian composers, with his attractive melodies, rich orchestral colours and much more. Born in 1840, the second son of a mining engineer, Tchaikovsky had his early education, in music as in everything else, at home, under the care of his mother and of a beloved governess. He was one of the earliest students of the St Petersburg Conservatory established by Anton Rubinstein. On completing his studies he became a member of the teaching staff of a similar institution in Moscow, continuing there for some ten years, before financial assistance from a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, enabled him to leave the Conservatory and devote himself entirely to composition. He died in 1893.