After a 40-year hiatus, Abba is back with a final studio album. The reviews for the newly released album Voyage might not all be glowing, but there's one thing that stuck out to us – and, we're sure, a lot of other classical music fans.


Does that opening phrase in Ode to Freedom – the final track of the album – sound familiar to anyone?

Even down to the orchestration and lush string melody, the opening theme is undoubtedly a reference to the waltz from Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake.

The main theme in Tchaikovsky's waltz places the theme in the hands of the violas, with the violins playing on the first beat of each bar and the cellos, double basses and horns answering them on the second and third beats. The second time the theme comes around, the violas are joined by the cellos on the main theme, with the flutes and clarinets bringing in a quaver countermelody.

The orchestra thickens, with the textures becoming more rich and lush, particularly when the percussion comes in to add excitement and drama.

The main difference between Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake waltz and Abba's new song lie in the time signature. Ode to Freedom has stretched the melody out over a 4/4 bar, a much more conventional time signature for pop songs. Although the main melody is played by the strings, there is an audible bass guitar offering a dotted rhythm accompaniment.

The similarities between the new Abba tune and Tchaikovsky's legendary ballet are being discussed on forums and chatrooms across the internet. Some listeners have also referenced the similarities shared with Sinéad O'Connor's 1990 song Three Babies.


We recently named Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake as one of the best Christmas ballets of all time.


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.