Valery Gergiev / Kirov Orchestra
I have only just begun to listen to Tchaikovsky (intensely), and The Nutcracker has become my favourite. I also listened to his 6th Symphony which is a masterpiece of melancholy. These are some highly nostalgic pieces that I believe will astound and enthrall you. I also just found the complete Sleeping Beauty Ballet hiding in my closet, hmm....
Although Gergiev is highly experienced in the theater, and he is leading an opera-ballet orchestra, this is definitely a concert Nutcracker. Tempos are brisk, textures streamlined, and dancers might have a good deal of difficulty keeping up with the music. For us home listeners, though, this is a superb way to hear Tchaikovsky's complete score and to remind ourselves of how much good music isn't included in the familiar suite. Gergiev justifies his reputation as an interpreter and as an orchestra leader, getting amazingly precise playing from the ensemble. I am especially glad that this is a complete recording of the ballet, are there are magical moments in each section that deserve recognition at all times.
Leonard Slatkin / Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
The story behind Swan Lake purportedly began as a little ballet called The Lake of the Swans that Tchaikovsky wrote for his family in 1871. Then, when he received the commission, Tchaikovsky added Russian and German folk tales for his sources, the general plot based on a story by the German author Johann Karl August Musäus. One of the salient points about Tchaikovsky writing it is that critics now consider it the first ballet composed by a writer who had previously worked almost exclusively in the symphonic field. Thus, if Swan Lake sounds more "symphonic" in structure, composition, and themes than earlier ballets, there is a reason. (taken from here)
Mstislav Rostropovich / Berliner Philharmoniker
Shortly after recording these three ballet suites in 1978, Mstislav Rostropovich likened conducting the Berlin Philharmonic to driving a locomotive. You get on, and you go where it takes you, he said - but in this case, the orchestra went where he wanted it to go. The playing is magnificent, but it is the characterization, the things Rostropovich gets the players to do that they wouldn't otherwise have done, that makes these accounts so memorable. As you listen, you are transported to a different world, for no conductor understands Tchaikovsky's soul better than Rostropovich. The delicacy is amazing, the power overwhelming (taken from here)
This is only the Sleeping Beauty Suite from the complete suite set originally recorded on the CD.