Py­otr Tchaikovsky Scène from Swan Lake (Op.20, No.10)

Bridget Mer­mikides re­turns to the work of the Rus­sian great, Tchaikovsky, to ar­range and tran­scribe this fa­mous theme from the equally fa­mous bal­let, Swan Lake.

Guitar Techniques - - Play: Classical -

This is­sue marks a re­turn to the mu­sic of the phe­nom­e­nal Rus­sian com­poser Py­otr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), whose Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy I ar­ranged back in GT192. Tchaikovsky had an in­cred­i­ble tal­ent for com­pos­ing widely ac­ces­si­ble, tech­ni­cally as­ton­ish­ing and per­fectly judged evoca­tive themes for or­ches­tral works and the bal­let. In fact, his bal­let works have a life be­yond their func­tional ori­gins, and in­clude among them the most loved and recog­nis­able melodies in ‘clas­si­cal’ mu­sic.

In this ar­ti­cle, I’ve ar­ranged the stun­ning theme Act 2 No.10 from the bal­let Swan Lake com­posed from 1875-76. The bal­let – adapted from Rus­sian folk tales – en­acts the story of Princess Odette (who takes the lead bal­le­rina role) who has been trans­formed to a swan by a sorcerer, with a deeply tragic ro­man­tic con­clu­sion. The open­ing of Act 2 de­picts the other pro­tag­o­nist, Siegfried, hunt­ing for swan in a moon­lit for­est clear­ing, and find­ing Odette – whose true iden­tity as a beau­ti­ful young girl trapped in the vi­sion of a swan is re­vealed to him. Tchaikovsky’s ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic (Act 2, No.10 Scéne – Lake in the Moon­light (Mod­er­ato), also known sim­ply as Scène) is both ro­man­tic and dra­matic, per­fectly cap­tur­ing a swan-like el­e­gance, a dark sor­cery and a deep love doomed to tragedy.

This theme is an evergreen favourite for clas­si­cal mu­sic lovers and the gen­eral pub­lic, and is of­ten played as an or­ches­tral work in its own right. You have also doubt­less heard it in nu­mer­ous films and TV shows, such as the mov­ing last scene of Billy El­liot (although the per­for­mance starts with Act II, for rea­sons of artis­tic li­cence!) As al­ways, re­duc­ing an or­ches­tral work down to six strings and two hands is a chal­lenge, but Tchaikovsky’s melodic writ­ing is so pow­er­ful that it trans­lates very well.

I’ve trans­posed the orig­i­nal key of B Mi­nor down a 5th to E Mi­nor, to utilise the range and open strings of the guitar more id­iomat­i­cally, and cap­tured the or­ches­tral ges­tures as best as pos­si­ble with arpeg­gios (and from bar 48, the use of the tremolo tech­nique) to mimic the tremolando used by the or­ches­tral bowed strings.

As ever, take your time to get the var­i­ous tech­niques un­der your fin­gers, re­fer­ring to the tab cap­tions for the trick­ier sec­tions.

You’ll want to have a tech­ni­cal flu­ency when com­ing to per­form this, as the piece re­quires a fluid and ex­pres­sive con­trol of tempo for it to sound its best.

I’ve trans­posed the orig­i­nal key of Bm down a 5th to Em to utilise the range and open strings of the guitar.

Tchaikovsky: one of the all-time great com­posers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.