November 29, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it an A

As popular as Tchaikovsky’s ”Swan Lake” has been since its first performance in 1877), it’s unlikely that most ballet audiences have given the music itself the attention it deserves. That’s understandable; pit orchestras at ballet performances tend to be undersized and underrehearsed. Now, in Swan Lake, Michael Tilson Thomas and his London Symphony make amends in probing, splendidly responsive performance that reveals Tchaikovsky’s great 150-minute score as the masterpiece it is. With remarkable dramatic skill and more than a trace of wit, Thomas manages to elevate Tchaikovsky’s score above the sweetly humdrum ballets favored in Russia at the time. Although it’s not the first complete ”Swan Lake” by a major conductor (earlier versions by Seiji Ozawa and Leonard Slatkin have their merits), there is a vibrance in Thomas’ performance that suggests a deep and longtime involvement with the score. It deserves no less. A

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