ALBUM TITLE: Swan Lake
PERFORMER: Orchestra of the Mariinsky
CATALOGUE NO: 475 7669
‘Tchaikovsky’s complete score’, proudly declares the sticker on the CD case. Absolutely not: this is the drastically reduced 1895 version of Swan Lake now fixed in the amber of the Mariinsky tradition. Where ballet hack Riccardo Drigo didn’t cut and burn Tchaikovsky’s 1877 score to fit Petipa’s choreography, he made basic orchestrations of three late piano pieces. Two of them bring toytown to the lakeside poetry of the last Act, and even when Valery Gergiev is finally allowed to resume dramatic service as usual, the music leaps all too rapidly to its final apotheosis.
This is one of several points where the familiar Gergiev touch resurfaces – the national dances in Act III form another sequence – but it’s hardly ‘spectacular’, to quote the sticker. The mutilated waltzes show a lovely string legato, but the violins rarely flare into brilliance; the leader in the ‘Black Swan’ Pas de deux suffers intonation problems, like the crucial oboe solos, and Gergiev turns the famous Andante of the first lakeside scene into an Adagio that gets slower instead of faster. Odd that all this should happen under studio circumstances following the live performance made for DVD: to be of more than archive interest, Gergiev should have opened up all the cuts (if not all the repeats) and provided a half-hour supplement of the missing music. Since he doesn’t, and since the greater panache of Rozhdestvensky has inexplicably not reached CD, handsome Sawallisch on bargain EMI remains a safe choice.