The story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was transformed into a magical ballet in — and is now a Christmas favourite. A bit like a Tchaikovsky 'Toy Story', the enchanting narrative is full of wonderful characters and follows a young girl called Clara who is given a wooden nutcracker as a present. When the nutcracker comes to life as a handsome prince the two have to escape the Mouse King to reach the Land of Sweets, which is ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The two extracts from the suite give us the chance to look at very different dances: the whirling Russian Dance, based on a Ukrainian folk dance, and the elegant Waltz of the Flowers. The Russian Dance - the Trepak - is a Cossack dance normally performed by men who would kick their legs out from a squatting position. In contrast, the Waltz of the Flowers is the final dance of the ballet where all the Sugar Plum Fairy's sweets celebrate Clara and the prince.
For the movie fan
So why not join me by titivating your tutu, pulling on your pointe-shoes, and dipping an elegantly extended toe into the magical world of the best ballet music. Explore our selection of ten classic scores which were either composed specifically for the dance, or have become famous because choreographers have employed them for ballets. Tchaikovsky is truly the alpha and omega of ballet music. She creeps downstairs to play with her favourite present, a nutcracker, which comes to life as a handsome prince who whisks her off to the Land of Sweets. His score for The Nutcracker is a perennial Christmas favourite, and contains hundreds of musical sugar-plums. It contains a real sugar-plum too, in the form of a dance for — who else?
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Watch the full orchestral performance
The libretto is adapted from E. Hoffmann 's story " The Nutcracker and the Mouse King ". Although the original production was not a success, the minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. However, the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late s and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America. Tchaikovsky's score has become one of his most famous compositions. Among other things, the score is noted for its use of the celesta , an instrument that the composer had already employed in his much lesser known symphonic ballad The Voyevoda. After the success of The Sleeping Beauty in , Ivan Vsevolozhsky , the director of the Imperial Theatres, commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose a double-bill program featuring both an opera and a ballet. The opera would be Iolanta.
Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker has always been one of my favorite pieces of classical music, and come December, I'm ready to listen to the best recording of the ballet. There's no one perfect Nutcracker , I've found — but there is a Nutcracker for every mood. Recently, I listened to nine leading recordings of the complete ballet once you know the full score, going back to the suite is like lopping the edges off your wide-screen TV. Here's my guide to help you decide which Nutcracker is for you. To learn more about this beloved ballet, listen to Alison Young's feature about Tchaikovsky's masterpiece. This is the John Williams of Nutcracker recordings: sweeping, dramatic, and fast-paced with close attention to detail. The battle scenes are genuinely thrilling, and the dance of the snowflakes is uniquely affecting — buoyed by spare, lucid choral work.