Swan Lake (suite)

Tchaikovsky Research

In 1882, Tchaikovsky considered creating a concert suite out of numbers from his ballet Swan Lake (Лебединое озеро), which he had composed six years previously. However, he seems not to have made a final decision, and the authorship of the concert suite published after his death as Op. 20a (TH 219) is unknown [1].


Scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in A, B-flat), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F), 2 cornets (in A, B-flat), 2 trumpets (in E, F), 3 trombones, tuba + 3 timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum + harp, violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

Movements and Duration

The concert suite published after Tchaikovsky's death as "Op. 20a" contains six numbers, lasting around 20 to 25 minutes in performance:

  1. Scène. Moderato (70 bars).
    Corresponding to the Scene (Act II, No. 10) from the ballet.
  2. Valse. Tempo di Valse (399 bars).
    Waltz (Act I, No. 2).
  3. Danse des cygnes. Allegro moderato (38 bars).
    Part IV of the Dances of the Swans (Act II, No. 13).
  4. Scène. Andante—Andante non troppo—Allegro (146 bars).
    Pas d'action from the Dances of the Swans (Act II, No. 13, part V).
  5. Czardas: Danse hongroise. Moderato assai—Allegro moderato—Vivace (107 bars).
    Hungarian Dance: Czardas (Act III, No. 20).
  6. Scène. Allegro agitato—Andante (313 bars).
    Scene (Act IV, No. 28) and Final Scene (Act IV, No. 29).


On 20 September/2 October 1882 the composer wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "You know that the French composer Delibes has written ballets. Since ballets are not things with a permanent existence, then he's made concert suites to be performed from them. The other day I remembered my "Swan Lake" and wanted very much to preserve this music, which contains a few decent things, from oblivion. And so I have decided, like Delibes, to make a 'suite' from it. To this end, I require the piano reduction and the full score. I don't know whether you have the score; if not, and it's problematic to acquire it from the theatre, then just send the arrangement alone for the time being, and I'll inform you afterwards exactly which numbers and the sequence in which they should be printed. And then, if you wish it, this suite could be published in the form of the full score and an arrangement for 4 hands. Write what you think about this?" [2].

Jurgenson replied favourably to Tchaikovsky's suggestion [3], and sent him the full score and piano arrangement of the ballet. However, it is not certain whether the composer selected any numbers at this time, and there are no further references to the suite in his correspondence.


Seven years after Tchaikovsky's death, in November 1900, Jurgenson published a "suite" of six numbers from the ballet, as "Op. 20a". It is unclear who chose these numbers from the ballet, and it is still possible that Tchaikovsky made the selection himself at some point during the 1880s or early 1890s.


The earliest known performance of the suite was at a concert in the Queen's Hall, London on 1/14 September 1901, conducted by Henry Wood.


See: Discography

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Not listed separately from the ballet in ČW.
  2. Letter 2113 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 20 September/2 October 1882.
  3. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 26 September/8 October 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive.