In spring of 1896, Alexander Glazunov received a commission from the director
of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres Ivan Vsevolozhsky to compose the score to the ballet
Raymonda. Despite being busy (Glazunov was already a well-known composer at the time
whose works were loved by the public, an author of five symphonies, chamber and instrumental pieces), Glazunov found the offer interesting and agreed.
It was the composer’s first experience with a score for a ballet performance. However,
he had had some creative experience of realizing the principles of dancing. It would suffice
to recall his previous opuses such as Characteristic Suite and Ballet Suite, and concert waltzes.
The libretto was written by Princess Lidya Pashkova, a traveler and columnist of the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro, who also wrote novels and librettos. The script plot belonged to Marius Petipa, an illustrious ballet master who staged ballets in Russia in the second half of the 19th
century. The story involved characters who actually existed (Jean de Brienne and King
Andrew) and fictional ones, and was historically inaccurate. But that was not a serious
obstacle for the composer who started to think over the first ten numbers of Raymonda and wrote them down in summer of 1897 before he even received the script. The first two acts were
finished in August, and the third one in autumn of 1897. The score autograph has the composer’s inscription: “The ballet finished 21 October, 1897. Orchestrated within 1 year.”
The performance was a real triumph. The encores began as early as after the first act. Glazunov was presented a laurel wreath, and the artists read a letter of greetings to him. One of the reviews explained the success of the ballet as a combination of three factors – “beautiful, melodic and captivating music, the ballet master’s unfading talent and the artists’ wonderful performance.”
The destiny of Raymonda has been happy. The ballet has been staged many times both
in the Soviet Russia and overseas.
Recorded in 1961.
The Orchestra of the USSR State Academic Bolshoi Theatre
Conductor – Еvgeny Svetlanov
Solos in the orchestra:
Oleg Usachev (trumpet)
Sergei Kalinovsky (violin)
Vera Dulova (harp)