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Question: The 7th number "Sujet" in the Ballet "Swan Lake"

Hello, everyone.

Dear, Mr. Langston. Thank you for replying to my previous question.

Today I have another question.

French word "Sujet" means "Subject". So I think that "Sujet" in "Swan Lake" is important piece. However it consists of only sixteen bars, like a only introduction to the next number Polonaise. And Tchaikovsky did not specified the tempo in it. So I'd like to know why it is counted as "one number".

I suppose that Tchaikovsky composed and structured the Ballet "Swan Lake" in SYMMETRY. Because the numbers of the first act and the third act are five pieces respectively, and similarly the second act and the fourth act have ten pieces each; the former half 10–5 and the latter half 10–5.

For examples; the finale of the first act finishes in B major substantially and the third act ends in F major factualy, that is, the keys are most remotely located in the circle of fifths. And at the finales of each act appears "the Swan Song".

Introduction is not numbered and its "counter-partner" the 15th is not titled. Both the 2nd and the 17th are waltzs. the 4th is "Pas de trois" and the 19th is "Pas de six". The 8th and the 23rd are Polish dances each(Polonais, Mazurka). Also the 7th starts in A major substantially and the 22nd begins in A major factualy too.

That are my thoughts, but I have found no more common features of the 7th and the 22nd.

Could anyone please let me know why the 7th number in the Ballet "Swan Lake" is extremely short.

Best Regards.

Kamomeno Iwao

Dear Kamomeno Iwao

I think this number only plays a role of transition as it says : "Il commence à faire sombre. Un des invités propose de danser une dernière danse les coupes à la main" which means that somebody suggests they dance one last time with the cups. In french, the word "sujet" may have several meanings, such as :

  • a subject (of monarch),
  • or an idea, a theme (a melody), which I strongly think is the meaning here,
  • or even a question in a conversation (examples : "Nous avons traîté plusieurs sujets" ; "C'est à quel sujet ?").

Indeed I have never thought of symmetry in Swan Lake. I think one common thing in Nos. 7 and 22 is the C rhythm. Maybe Tchaikovsky intended to use the tempo of the end of the Pas d'action No. 6...and as it is only a transition he may not have felt the need to precise the tempo...

Hope it helps...

Bryan Chahla

Dear Mr. Bryan Chahla

Thank you for your kind comments and suggestions. But I am a Japanese and not good at English. So I cannot understand the meaning of "the C rhythm". And the tempo of the end of the Pas d'action(#6) is "Allegro". Tchaikovsky have usually used the tempo "Allegro" as "quarter note = around 132". May Tchaikovsky intended to use the tempo "Allegro" for "sujet"(#7) indeed? So fast. Or rather, might the tempo for "sujet"(#7) be "tempo di Polacca"(quarter note = 104 or more slow)?

I think that Tchaikovsky intended to draw attention by arranging "#7" strangely. Tchaikovsky use transposing instruments clarinetts and cornetts a pistons mainly in A for the former half(the first act and the second act) and in B for the latter half(using clarinetts in C for only #15).

Many thanks,

Kamomeno Iwao

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This page was last updated on 05 November 2013