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Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker / Simon Rattle

Album Summary

>Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich : Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

"Rattle is always heartfelt and expansive, and the playing of the Berliners is glorious" -The Sunday Times

Tchaikovsky's most famous work, The Nutcracker, is presented in this stunning new recording by the world's greatest orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, under the baton of their celebrated conductor Sir Simon Rattle. This musical fairytale follows Clara and her unusual prince and protector, The Nutcracker, through adventures and exotic delights in the magical Kingdom of Sweets. The Nutcracker is the most popular ballet, and its annual holiday performances have become a treasured tradition the world over. This release features the live recording of Act II from December 2009's Silvesterkonzert, Germany's New Year's celebrations. Act I was recorded in the studio during the same period.

This Standard Edition sets itself apart from the typical Nutcracker offering with the exceptional quality of the recording, video content, 12-page booklet, educational and entertaining essays and photos.

"This complete Nutcracker ballet is glorious. The quality of the Berliners' playing is unrivalled, with some of the best woodwind you'll ever hear. Strings are warm and precise, with cellos unfurling passionately in the Pas de Deux. Brass, too, is golden-toned and characterful. Act I was recorded in the studio, Act II is live. Rattle renewed his contract with EMI last year. This is one of the fruits, not to say – bearing in mind that famous chocolate ad which borrowed the Dance of the Reed Pipes – nuts, of that long association." -The Guardian

"The wealth of melodies contained in The Nutcracker, is all the more remarkable, as Simon Rattle suggests, for the depressive state of its composer. Besides the featherlight celesta of "Dance Of The Sugar-Plum Fairy", there's the tiptoeing woodwind of "Dance Of The Reeds", and the en pointe pizzicato of "Tea: Chinese Dance", its high woodwind and glockenspiel so delicately presented here before the dramatic gusto of the equally familiar "Trepak: Russian Dance". Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker enter fully into the spirit of things, infusing the classic "March" with a lovely toytown pomp. Delightful." -The Independent

"Simon Rattle has produced a conception-buster of a disc here. As a general rule, The Nutcracker feels like the comfort blanket of the ballet repertoire: a much-loved, known quantity of solid, 19th century sumptous prettiness. However, Rattle has taken his expertise in early 20th century music and brilliantly applied it backwards to Tchaikovsky. The result is enlightening. You clearly hear how Act I inspired Stravinsky when writing Petrushka, and there's also more than a whisper of Ravel in the overall tone of bright, nostalgic modernity.

The Nutcracker's action is set on Christmas Eve, when Clara is given a nutcracker toy by her mysterious godfather. At midnight the toy comes alive. After Clara helps him to conquor the evil Mouse King in battle, he turns into a prince and leads her to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them to a series of fantastic dances. These dances make up one of the few balletic divertissements (diversions from the main plot) that is indisputably integral to the evenings enjoyment, rather than the cue for non-hardcore ballet fans to start clock-watching. The reason is that they include many of the most memorable and popular pieces in the whole classical canon, such as Waltz of the Flowers and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It's so infectiously, festively fun that even the Berlin Philharmoniker, famed more for their rich, smooth perfection than for letting their hair down, has fallen into party mode, albeit of the cocktail rather than the student shin-dig variety. The Battle crackles brightly with military tension, half-aware that the most deadly weapon will turn out to be a thrown slipper. Later, in the smouldering coffee dance, the clarinet langourously rises and snakes over the orchestra like an exotic swirl of steam rising up from the dark spiciness of the cup beneath.

The recording is released in three editions. Whilst the single-CD edition contains musical highlights, this performance is worth owning in full. Of the two double-CD, complete-work options, there is a Standard Edition or an Experience Edition, the latter of which includes a larger hardback book, greater online content, and a free 24-hour pass to the Berlin Philharmoniker's online concert hall."-BBC Music

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Philharmonie, Berlin (12/29/2009-12/31/2009).


A great performance of a classic work
The bad news: a poor booklet essay, which claims that Tchaikovsky's opera Iolanta (the work originally paired with The Nutcracker, as a double bill at the premiere) is based on the same source as the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta Iolanthe--which is simply not true. The notes also claim that at the end of the ballet, Clara wakes up to discover it was all just a dream--again, not according to Petipa's original scenario; the "just a dream" interpretation is characteristic of many (but not all) modern productions. One could also complain that a little over 80 minutes of music is spread across two discs, with no filler; although at least the disc break comes after Act 1. The good news: the performance is excellent, striking a near-ideal balance between lucidity of instrumental textures and Romantic warmth. Some episodes, such as the appearance of toy instruments in Act 1, and the "battle scene," are probably as well realized as they have ever been on a complete recording of the score. The sound is also very good. Highly recommended (but turn to other sources if you want to read up on the work).
Submitted on 01/26/11 by Roland Graeme 
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Works Details

>Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich : Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin (12/29/2009-12/31/2009)
  • Running Time: 81 min. 31 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Ballet
  • Written: 1892