Like much of Tchaikovsky's musical output, his ballet scores were often subject to criticism. This is certainly true of his first attempt at ballet, Swan Lake. Although still firmly rooted in the traditions of the day, Tchaikovsky certainly tried to move out on his own by making the score much more orchestra-based than most of his predecessors. This, of course, drew the ire of dancers and theater directors alike as the attention was taken away from the dancers and placed on the musicians. History shines more favorably on Tchaikovsky's independent streak, making him the first Russian composer whose ballet scores are played as stand-alone orchestral works, not to mention the fact that Tchaikovsky was unknowingly paving the way for a string of subsequent Russian ballet composers like Stravinsky and Prokofiev. Excerpts from Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and the perennial holiday favorite the Nutcracker are featured on this album by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko, who, at the rather young age of 29, became the orchestra's principal conductor in 2006, leads the orchestra in an extremely energetic and lively reading of these works. Most of the numbers are performed much more quickly than would ever be heard with a dance company, but the sprightly tempos make for especially exciting listening. Petrenko combines the orchestra's brilliant sound and exceptional technical precision with his own knowledge of the Russian master to create this enjoyable, appealing album.