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Nutcracker Suite, The

Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky, Op. 71a/arr. by Mayhew L. Lake

Tchaikovsky wrote the music for The Nutcracker ballet in 1891. He arranged eight numbers from the ballet in form of a Suite for concert use.

The Nutcracker has become the most popular ballet performed at Christmas, appealing to children and adults alike. The ballet opens with Christmas Eve festivity in the home of a little girl. Marie receives a wonderful array of toys and presents, including a nutcracker. When the lights are out and guests gone, she steals from bed at midnight to have another look and a wonderful thing happens: all the playthings come to life. The nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince, who takes Marie to his magic kingdom.

Marche ” Plain and straightforward, the first theme is repeated with almost childlike enjoyment. It is expressive of the joy and spirit of the holidays.

Danse des Mirlitons ” A mirliton is a tube of wood or cardboard, each end covered with a membrane. Singing into one of the triangular holes cut in the tube near each end produces a sound similar to a comb and tissue paper.

Danse Russe Trépak ” The Trépak is a genuine national dance of Russia, of lively and stormy character with short rhythms and persistence of form. A short coda features increasing tempo till the end.

Valse des Fleurs ” An introduction based on passages in the first part of the waltz of the flowers is followed by a clarinet cadenza, then the dance itself. Four independent parts are repeated in differing order, followed by a coda.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) began his adult life as a law clerk in the Russian government. Disillusioned by an “unjust promotion” over his head, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. His compositions reflect the emotional extremes of his complicated life. He is beloved for his many ballets, symphonic poems, symphonies, operas, songs, piano music, and chamber works.

Last updated on December 19, 2017 by Palatine Concert Band