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Five Reasons to Love The Nutcracker All Year Long

April 19, 2023

Five Reasons to Love The Nutcracker All Year Long

Visions of sugar plum fairies will dance in your head as Tchaikovsky’s enchanting music from The Nutcracker moves from the theatre stage to the concert hall under the baton of our distinguished former Music Director, Andrew Litton. The choreographer George Balanchine once said that “dancing was music made visible,” but the opposite is also true: ballet music is dance made audible. Without a full staged production, the Colorado Symphony will showcase Tchaikovsky’s brilliant orchestrations and instrumental colors with an emotional depth like you’ve never experienced before. Here are five reasons to fall in love with Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with your Colorado Symphony this May.

Tchaikovsky had an “unending gift for melody

Scott Speck, co-author of Classical Music for Dummies, says, “In The Nutcracker, we hear Tchaikovsky’s unending gift for melody. We hear new melodies almost every minute for two hours, which is beyond what even the greatest film composers do sometimes. We hear Tchaikovsky’s skill as a craftsman and his incredible ability to create different colors in the orchestra. Immediately, his music evokes a place more magical than our own.”


The Nutcracker wasn’t always a holiday tradition

As some of the most recognizable classical music ever written, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is something that evokes a sense of nostalgia for listeners across the globe. The iconic work is the first introduction to the world of classical music for many listeners, with the familiar storyline brought to life with motifs woven throughout the score.

The Nutcracker was originally commissioned by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the director of the Imperial Theatres, after the success of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890. Following the work’s premiere in December 1892, the work’s choreography initially received criticism, but its composition was heavily praised. Throughout the following decades, the ballet saw success throughout Russia and Europe, before coming to the United States in the 1940s.


Disney’s Fantasia was pivotal to The Nutcracker’s popularity in America

Walt Disney’s Fantasia may have done more for The Nutcracker as a piece of music than for any other piece featured in the film and was instrumental in its rise in popularity over the past century. In 1940, Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet was relatively obscure: the ballet had never been performed in its entirety in the United States and was barely seen outside of Russia at all. Four years after Fantasia was released, the San Francisco Ballet staged the U.S. premiere of the complete ballet, and by the time George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet Nutcracker premiered in 1954, the work was on a fast track to become a permanent staple in cities across the country.  

This was the first notable use of the celesta

The celesta is a nineteenth-century percussion instrument with piano-like felt hammers arranged to dynamically strike metal plates, which are positioned above wooden resonators. This instrument is most recognizable for its mischievously joyful lines in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, particularly in Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. (KFMA 89.5). The instrument can also be heard in the melodic line from “Hedwig’s Theme,” written for the Harry Potter films by composer John Williams.

Tchaikovsky secretly ordered a celesta to be delivered to Russia after hearing it played in Paris; an effort made to outpace his Russian contemporaries. His use of the instrument in The Nutcracker creates one of the most timeless melodic lines in classical music.

Ballet music is dance made audible

The Nutcracker was originally based on E.T.A. Hoffman‘s 1816 fairytale, Nussknacker und Mausekönig (Nutcracker and Mouse King), which offers a darker and subtly more humorous perspective than the ballet known and loved by audiences today. In translation from the story to the stage, the darker aspects of the narrative were lost and replaced with more pleasant, dream-like depictions.

When he was originally composing the score, Tchaikovsky was faced with these peripheral challenges and limitations, delaying the ultimate completion of the score. Performing the music without dancers allows both the conductor and musicians to explore the richness and expanse of the work, without consideration for choreographic limitations.

Buy One, Get One Tickets

Join us May 12-14 for three evenings celebrating one of the most beloved classical pieces of all time. Hear Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite conducted by former Music Director Andrew Litton alongside a world premiere harp concerto featuring Colorado Symphony principal harpist Courtney Hershey Bress.

Use code LITTON for buy one, get one tickets to the upcoming performances of The Nutcracker.

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