Swan Lake (suite)

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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 (C, B-flat, A), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (F) + 2 cornets (A, B-flat), 2 trumpets (F, D, E), 3 trombones, tuba + timpani, triangle, military drum, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam + 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 [Act II, No. 10 from the ballet]
  2. Valse [Act I, No. 2]
  3. Danse des cygnes [Act II, No. 13, part IV]
  4. Scène [Act II, No. 13, part V]
  5. Czardas: Danse hongroise [Act III, No. 20]
  6. Scène [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 ballet is a thing without firm foundations, he made a concert suite from it. The other day I thought about my own Swan Lake, and I wanted very much to save this music from oblivion, since it contains some fine things. And so I decided to make a suite from it, like Delibes. In order to do this I need the whole piano score of the ballet as well as the full score. I don’t know whether you yourself have the full score; if not, and if it proves difficult to extract it from the theatre, just send me the arrangement for the time being, and afterwards I shall indicate to you which numbers and in which order they will be listed. And then, if you wish, this suite could be published in the form of a full score and arrangement for piano duet. Write and tell me 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: Swan Lake: Recordings

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.