New Music Friday: Aurora’s March

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is known for the timeless music in his three masterpiece ballet scores, including Sleeping Beauty. The ballet was first performed in 1890, only three years before the composer’s death. Tsar Alexander III summoned Tchaikovsky to his box at the first performance and stated, “Very nice.” The lukewarm reception was typical of the times. It wasn’t until 1921 that the ballet finally earned wide acclaim and a permanent place in the ballet repertoire.

Sleeping Beauty ballet’s storyline was based on the Brother’s Grimm adaptation of the folk tale first published in 1330. French tradition creeps into the Russian ballet through the introduction of characters from French fables, including Puss in Boots. After the sweeping overture, Tchaikovsky wrote this march for the cast of characters to appear on stage for Aurora’s christening, arranged by Caryn Wiegand Neidhold as Aurora’s March.

Originally written for symphony orchestra, this arrangement for string orchestra conveys the enduring melodies and great depth of Tchaikovsky’s genius.

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About Aurora's March

To help students perform this incredible piece, they will need help with the bow stroke since much of the Tchaikovsky style is not written with articulations. For example, violin 2, viola, cello, and bass should use a brush stroke with a light touch in the opening bars. A good placement will likely be closer to the bow’s balance point. In the first violins, the bow should come slightly off the string for the dotted hooked rhythms and be played in the lower half of the bow. In measures 3 and 4, the first violins need to shorten the dotted eighth note to give the energy and typical interpretation of this bowing and rhythm.

Generally, eighth and sixteenth notes are played slightly off the string with clear articulations. Quarter notes are typically separated with a detaché bow stroke leaning toward an accented bow stroke in the louder sections. Fortissimos are best achieved with a fast bow rather than a heavy bow stroke, except for the four bars of fortissimo at rehearsal E, which need the bow weight to achieve the correct sound.

After rehearsal N, the “shoeshine” bowing (up-down) in the violins and violas works best in the upper part of the bow with a fast and light bow stroke on the down bow. From rehearsal O to the end of the piece, the doubled notes should still maintain a good articulation and some separation, rather than scrubbing into the string to create the triple forte.

There are many exceptional examples of this march on multiple online sources. This march is the first movement after the ballet’s overture and was re-named Aurora’s March for this arrangement. Listening to performances will help students create a characteristic sound for Tchaikovsky’s music.

About Caryn Wiegand Neidhold

Caryn Wiegand Neidhold is a composer and arranger for student through professional ensembles. Her focus includes arranging hidden classical “gems” and composing music for eclectic styles, including fiddle, rock, and jazz. Caryn’s music consistently distributes musical challenges to all string sections, emphasizing learning technique through literature.

Caryn’s background includes extensive work as a middle school educator, Suzuki teacher, and youth symphony conductor and coach. In addition, she has years of performance experience as a violist and violinist with orchestras including the Fairbanks Symphony, New World Symphony, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, and the Reno Phil. Caryn enjoys writing articles for music education publications and presenting seminars for string educators.

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