The Full Works Concert - Thursday 27 June 2013: A Night at the Ballet

Anne-Marie Minhall dons her tutu and invites you to spend a night at the ballet.

The suite from Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty kicks off tonight's concert with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The second of Tchaikovsky's ballets (and his longest at four hours), it was first performed in 1890 and has since become one of the most famous and popular ballets in the repertoire. At the premiere though, Russia's Tsar Alexander III summoned Tchaikovsky and said, 'Very nice', which seemed to have irritated the composer who was expecting something more effusive. By 1903, ten years after Tchaikovsky's death, The Sleeping Beauty was the second most popular ballet in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet, having been performed 200 times. But it was not until 1921 that, in London, the ballet finally gained wide acclaim and eventually a permanent place in the classical repertoire.

Les Patineurs - The Skaters - with music by Meyerbeer was a ballet choreographed by the great Frederick Ashton, first presented by the Vic-Wells Ballet at Sadler's Wells in 1937. The piece, in one act, depicts a Victorian skating party that takes place on a frozen pond on a winter's evening. There's no real story - the various skating dances simply proceed in a sequence.

Handel composed several dance sequences for his opera, Alcina. These were written for the French ballerina Marie Sallé, known for her expressive, dramatic performances rather than the usual "leaps and frolics" typical of that time. The music is played tonight by John Eliot Gardiner with the English Baroque Soloists.

The Entrance of the Fauns is one of the most recognisable pieces to come from the 1915 ballet Cydalise and the Satyr by Gabriel Pierné. Its first production was delayed however by the Great War until 1923. It is one of Pierné's most popular compositions, leading him to extract from it two suites, three years after its premiere.

Tonight's concert concludes with a suite from Khachaturian's ballet Gayaneh. This four-acter was composed in 1941-42. The original version told the story of a young Armenian woman whose patriotic convictions conflict with her personal feelings on discovering her husband's treason. In later years, the plot was modified several times, to emphasise the romance over nationalistic zeal.

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty, Suite
Mstislav Rostropovich conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Giacomo Meyerbeer: Les Patineurs, Suite
Richard Bonynge conducts the National Philharmonic Orchestra

George Frideric Handel: Alcina, Ballet Music
John Eliot Gardiner conducts the English Baroque Soloists 

Gabriel Pierne: Cydalise and the Satyr, 'Entrance of the Fauns' 
Leonard Slatkin conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Aram Khachaturian: Gayaneh, Suite
Aram Khachaturian conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra