You are here

April 2015 Concert

Sunday, April 26, 2015
2:30 pm

Swan Lake & Mozart

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is the iconic ballet, subject of movies such as the Black Swan and a favorite musical source for Olympic skating programs. Its 1877 premiere was not a great success as the music was criticized for being “too symphonic.” Our symphonic suite presents 50 minutes of both favorite dances and its grandest symphonic passages. Mozart was Tchaikovsky’s favorite composer, and the passionate 40th Symphony shows why as it opens this all-orchestral concert.


Go To Videos

Musical Insights Free Pre-Concert Preview the Friday before this concert.
Learn How to Attend!

  • Symphony No. 40 in G Minor
  • Swan Lake Symphonic Suite

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall

50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston
See map.


Buy Tickets

All tickets are assigned seating.

At this time, masks, vaccinations and testing are no longer required to attend ESO concerts or events. As always, we ask that if you are sick, please stay home to prevent the spread of illness. (read more detail).

Advance Sales

$35 Adult, $30 Seniors, $5.00 Full-Time Student

At the Door Sales

$39 Adult, $35 Seniors, $5.00 Full-Time Student

Children Free

Children 12 and younger are admitted absolutely FREE, but must have an assigned seat.
Please call 847.864.8804 or email for all orders with children’s tickets.

Subscribe Now


Subscribers get first choice of the best seats in the section they desire.

Musical Insights

Free Pre-Concert Preview Series!

May 31, Friday, at 1:30 pm

Enhance your concert experience with a sneak preview — Composers come alive and their passions take center stage when ESO Maestro Lawrence Eckerling takes you on an insider’s tour of the history and highlights behind the music.

Meet our soloist, Steven Banks, at Musical Insights. He and our Maestro Lawrence Eckerling will explore the concert program in depth.


The Merion
Friday, May 31 at 1:30 pm,
Merion's Emerald Lounge at
529 Davis St, Evanston.
FREE and open to the public.
Please RSVP to 847-570-7815.

Light refreshments will be served and casual tours of apartments will be available after the program.


The Evanston Symphony Orchestra is proud to provide videos to educate you about the pieces we perform and, at times, the soloists who will be performing. The video(s) below are examples only and do not represent performances by the Evanston Symphony Orchestra unless noted.

Swan Lake: Final Scene

The U of North Carolina Symphony. This is one of the rare performances which plays all of the music.


Swan Lake: The Swan Theme

Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.


Swan Lake: Waltz

Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.


Swan Lake: Swan Lake: Dance of the Little Swans

Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.


Swan Lake: Pas de Deux

Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.


Symphony 40

Leonard Bernstein conducting the Boston Symphony

Program Notes

by David Ellis



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
30 Minutes


Mozart composed approximately 50 symphonies, of which 41 were assigned numbers during the nineteenth century. These are the standard numbers familiar to concert-goers, including the No. 40 on today’s program. The final ten symphonies (nos. 31–41; no. 37 is not by Mozart) were composed between 1778 and 1788, with the remaining 40 or so dated between 1765 and 1774.

The Symphony No. 40 is notable for its minor key; only one other of these 50 or so symphonies is in a minor key: No. 25, also in G Minor. G Minor was Mozart’s favorite minor key; in addition to these two symphonies he used it for his Piano Quartet, K. 478 and his String Quintet, K. 516. Another rarity in Mozart’s symphonies is the use of clarinets-they are found only in Nos. 31, 35, 39, and 40. The first versions of Symphonies 35 and 40 omitted clarinets; they were added in later versions, and today’s performance of No. 40 includes them.

Molto Allegro. The character of the symphony, one of the most popular in the repertoire, is established at the outset, with the opening theme on the strings. Some have found it tragic or demonic, others serene and elevated. It is measure of Mozart’s greatness that it can be either. The second theme, in the woodwinds, is in B Flat Major, the “correct” key of classical sonata form. The entire movement is a textbook example of sonata form.

Andante. The slow movement is in the contrasting key of E Flat Major, again following the key relationships typical of classical period symphonies.

Menuetto (Allegretto). The minuet returns to the overall key of G Minor, and is typical of the minuet with a contrasting Trio central section followed by an exact repeat of the minuet (ABA form). The Trio is in G Major, the only part of the entire symphony in that key.

Finale (Allegro assai). The finale has a character similar to that of the opening movement, and is also in sonata form with a second theme in B Flat Major. The beginning of the development section of this movement (about two minutes after the start) constitutes one of the most arresting and “modern” passages in all of Mozart’s works: 11 of the 12 notes of the scale are played in a somewhat irregular rhythm, but the missing note is G, the key of the symphony.




Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
55 Minutes


Tchaikovsky’s three ballets—Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker—constitute the core of the classical ballet repertoire, and Swan Lake to many is the iconic romantic ballet. The eminent musicologist Richard Taruskin has written of Tchaikovsky “…he was surely the only major composer of the nineteenth symphony to be equally known for his symphonies and his ballets…and to be adjudged an outstanding producer of both.” Swan Lake was not a great success at its premiere in 1877 for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the choreography and the dancers, but also because the music was criticized as being too “symphonic.” In fact, compared to previous ballet music, Swan Lake represents an advance in symphonic scope similar to that of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the “Eroica,” over previous symphonies.

Very unusual for the time, Tchaikovsky composed much of Swan Lake free of the detailed requirements of a ballet master/choreographer under which most ballet music was written, including his other two ballets, which were prescribed by Marius Petipa for the Mariinsky Ballet. The earliest version of Swan Lake, which scholars believe included the famous “swan” theme, was conceived by Tchaikovsky as an entertainment for his nieces and nephews in 1871, at least four years before the full ballet was commissioned by the Bolshoi Theater.

Tchaikovsky was thus able to surround the short, lighter dances required by the ballet master with longer narrative numbers which advance the plot and also develop themes and keys in the manner of a symphony. Today’s “symphonic suite”, by emphasizing the most important narrative numbers of the score, hopefully will convey the emotional essence of Swan Lake in a reasonable time frame (55 minutes vs. the 160 minutes of the complete ballet). Note: As Tchaikovsky never prepared a suite from Swan Lake, all such suites have been compiled by others; today’s suite was prepared by this writer. Tchaikovsky’s score numbers the sections from 1 to 29 (the Introduction has no number) and these numbers are provided below.

Act I is set in the castle of Prince Siegfried, who is supposed to choose a bride very soon. The Introduction sets the basic key of B Minor with a plaintive theme on the oboe which is a precursor of the related and better known “swan” theme. This leads directly into the entrance of Prince Siegfried (No. 1) and the waltz (No. 2). The Dance with Goblets (No.8) is an energetic polonaise which ends the act in many danced productions.

Act II takes place next to the lake of the swans. The Introduction (No. 10) presents the swan theme on the oboe and its continuation on the strings. The remaining four numbers are all part of No. 13. The Dance of the Little Swans, primarily played by the woodwinds, is particularly famous for its choreography featuring four ballerinas with intertwined hands. In the Pas de Deux Prince Siegfried promises the Swan Queen Odette that he will be faithful to her forever and break the curse of the sorcerer Rotbart, who has condemned her to live as a swan during the day. The solo violin, cello, and harp are very prominent in this dance.

Act III occurs back at the castle. Rotbart has brought the Black Swan Odile to the ball at which Siegfried is to choose a bride, and in the finale (No. 24) Siegfried pledges his love to Odile. The swan theme is heard in a distorted form; Siegfried realizes his mistake and rushes off to find Odette.

Act IV returns to the lakeside, where the swans try to console Odette (No. 27). The finale (No’s. 28 and 29) is among Tchaikovsky’s most powerful and personal utterances. It represents the apotheosis of the swan theme, which shifts the key to B Major for the end of the ballet, and provides the justification of a happy ending for Siegfried and Odette.