Work: Sleeping Beauty Suite, Op. 66a
About This Work
Although this suite can take many forms according to the whims of the conductor, it almost always includes the following three pieces.
Most famously, there's the waltz from Act 1. After an exciting, anticipatory introduction, the bright,
gently swaying waltz itself begins in the strings, with a second, more staccato strain punctuated by brass chords. The principal melody reappears against chirping figures in the woodwinds, only to give way to a charming episode for flute and glockenspiel. The entire waltz, minus the introduction, is then repeated, and ends with a festive coda.
The so-called Rose Adagio is also drawn from Act 1. It opens with brief woodwind commentary, then one of Tchaikovsky's typically effusive harp solos. The main theme, for the violins, is one of the composer's most effective "happy-but-yearning" melodies. The mood becomes more melancholy and uncertain, and melodic fragments become building blocks of intensity, ascending to an even more passionate statement of the melody. Delicate lyrical wisps wave through the woodwinds in a long transitional passage that leads to the most ardent treatment of the main theme yet, now with cymbal crashes and a brass peroration.
The third critical excerpt from the ballet is the Act 3 pas de quatre, sometimes known by the name of its most impressive section, the Bluebird Pas de Deux. The whole episode sometimes circulates separately in a reorchestration by Igor Stravinsky. The original begins with the flute and clarinet echoing the phrases of a cheerful, ornithologically darting melody, although the other woodwinds and violins briefly intrude with more somber material. The birdsong returns, now with a little coda. The next section is a short but big, brassy waltz, followed by a swooping flute melody accompanied by the clarinet, which is soon taken up by the whole orchestra. The final section is a dizzy calliope-like theme for strings and woodwinds that builds intensity upon each brief repeat, culminating in a brilliant though not drawn-out conclusion.
-- James Reel
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