In my previous post on Tchaikovsky’s symphony no. 5 I’ve stated that I don’t like Tchaikovsky very much. However, I must admit he really did some magical (and not in the Disney sense of the word) melodies in his ballets.
Western Christmas traditions now include regular performances of the Nutcracker. The story was originally a German fairy tale of a prince turned into a nutcracker, by E.T.A Hoffmann, later adapted by Alexandre Dumas. Tchaikovsky conducted the premiere in 1892, and both the ballet and the “best-of” excerpt, the suites, are these days among the most famous of his works.
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker – Simon Rattle – Berliner Philharmoniker (EMI Classics 2010)
My first version was the legendary one by André Previn with the London Symphony Orchestra (also on EMI). That version is still very nice, so I didn’t look for a new recording for years (I basically listen to this work literally once or twice per year, usually some time in December).
However, two years ago I heard about this relatively new (2010) recording by Rattle on the radio, and I checked it out and I really liked it. Beautiful orchestral colors by the great BPO, and most importantly all the energy that this music really needs (I’m anything but a dancer, but this music makes me want to get up from my sofa and move to it).
You’ll find some excerpts of the recording here, with a nice interview with Sir Simon Rattle and some BPO musicians:
Note that some people say that Russian music can only be played well by Russian conductors, and indeed Gergiev did a great job on his Decca recording with the Kirov orchestra from the 1990s.
But still, Rattle did such a fine version that I doubt I’ll ever buy another Nutcracker again (well, never say never).
My rating: 5 stars
You can buy the CD here, I haven’t found a decent lossless download source.