The first of Tchaikovsky
's great ballet scores, "Swan Lake" has been enshrined in the public's imagination as the classical ballet non pareil.
Little is known of this work's origins and early history except from anecdotal evidence, and performances in Tchaikovsky's lifetime were variable and sporadic. The score was published posthumously, and it did not achieve lasting fame until after the 1895 revival by Marius Petipa
and Lev Ivanov. "Swan Lake" appears to have been assembled from an earlier amusement for children, "The Lake of the Swans," music for an abandoned stage work, "Undine," and several other loose pieces; and it was subsequently rearranged many times to suit the needs of choreographers. Therefore, it is less unified than the more sophisticated "Sleeping Beauty" and the perennial holiday favorite, "The Nutcracker." Yet "Swan Lake" is rife with charming melodies and dramatic scenes, many of which are familiar from the popular concert suite and frequent use in films. Wolfgang Sawallisch
recorded this complete performance of "Swan Lake" with the Philadelphia Orchestra
in 1993, and it was originally issued in a deluxe box set with a picture book. This affordable double-disc is accompanied by a slender booklet, which merely provides a synopsis of the ballet's action. EMI's recorded sound is vibrant and clear.