Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (1865 - 1936)
Tchaikovsky found no particular attraction in the subject proposed to him for what was to be his last ballet, The Nutcracker and the Mouse-king, based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. The choreographer Marius Petipa and the Imperial Theatre Directorate commissioned the work in 1891, and the composer worked on the score during a foreign tour that took him, as a conductor, to Paris and to America. The most famous dance in the ballet, the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, caused Tchaikovsky some initial difficulty, but in Paris he found a new instrument ideal for his purpose, the celesta, a keyboard metallophone invented by Auguste Mustel in 1886, and by June he had sketched out the whole work.
While it was Petipa who had proposed the subject for the ballet, the choreography of the first production at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 18th December 1892 was left to his assistant Ivanov. Of this version only the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy and the Prince has survived, while a number of later versions include choreography by Balanchine, Grigorovich, Cranko, Nureyev and Flemming Flindt. The Nutcracker Suite was arranged by Tchaikovsky for concert performance in St. Petersburg in March 1892, nine months before the staging of the ballet. It was an immediate success, each number except one being encored. The ballet itself was not so well received. It was presented as a double-bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera lolanta, a work that proved more satisfactory to the Tsar and his subjects. Since then, however, the ballet has become an annual favourite, with its Christmas setting and easily intelligible series of dances... Glazunov belongs to the generation of Russian composers after Tchaikovsky, able still further to heal the rift between the nationalists and those with a more formal musical training. He progressed rapidly as a private pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, who remained a firm friend, and collaborated with him in completing and editing for publication some of the compositions left unfinished by Borodin and Mussorgsky. For the ballet Glazunov provided three full-length original scores for Marius Petipa, Raymonda, staged at the Maryinsky Theatre in 1898 and set at the time of the Crusades, Les ruses d’amour, staged in St Petersburg in 1900 and based on a Watteau fête champetre, and The Seasons, also mounted in 1900.
The ballet Chopiniana is better known outside Russia as Les Sylphides. It was first staged at the Maryinsky Theatre in 1907 with choreography by Fokin and with Pavlova as prima ballerina. This first strongly Polish version opens with a ball-room scene, set to the Chopin Polonaise in A major, Opus 40 No.1, followed by the F major Nocturne, Opus 15 No.1, showing Chopin’s feverish dreams during his fateful winter in Mallorca with his mistress George Sand, when tuberculosis threatened his life The C sharp minor Mazurka, Opus 50 No 3, celebrates a Polish wedding and the Waltz in the same key, Opus 64 No 2, allows the ballerina to appear not in Polish national costume but in traditional romantic dress. This version of the ballet ends with the Tarantella in A flat major, Opus 43, set understandably, in Naples, a city associated with the rapid whirling dance Fokin choreographed an extended version of the ballet in’ 908 and in’ 909 devised a further version for Dyagilev in Paris. It is generally the later versions of the ballet that remain in current repertoire both in Russia and abroad.