Skip to page content


Listen to audio:

Length: c. 5 minutes

About this Piece

Tchaikovsky wrote his first ballet, Swan Lake, in 1875 because — he was frank to admit — he needed the money. The project may have helped to fill his pockets, but it also served the even more important purpose of fully awakening that which had already been manifest in many of his non-ballet scores, namely the gift to write music that is the essence of the dance. Some 13 years, two symphonies, and several operas later, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write another ballet, this one for the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, with the subject, The Sleeping Beauty, based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

The Sleeping Beauty, now a classic in the ballet repertory, is Tchaikovsky at his best. One of Tchaikovsky’s best-known waltzes comes from Act I of the ballet, and is danced by the corps holding garlands of flowers in celebration of Aurora’s 16th birthday.

—Orrin Howard