Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Sound of Music: The Classics - The Nutcracker

When the seasons change, nature makes a transition to signal the passage of time. Leaves change colors from glorious green to rich gold and fiery shades of red, before falling off with the coming of winter. In other places, it is the migration of birds and herds that heralds the changing conditions. It is a shift in the winds, the turning of the weather, and the movement of the stars in the heavens that proclaim and exemplify the march of time and the evolution of life. The cosmos plays the music, and life dances to the tune.

There are certain specific activities and traditions that mark the arrival of the holiday season: Decorating Xmas trees, homes, and avenues with colorful garlands, ornate ornaments, and sparkling lights; hanging wreaths and mistletoes; exchanging gifts; making and sharing sweet treats and hot drinks; and the singing and performance of holiday songs and plays. And among all the many cheerful and festive acts that commemorate the holiday season, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker stands out as a sophisticated, exquisite, and elegant celebration of the holidays.

I have to point out here that I've never seen a full, professional production of The Nutcracker. I've seen bits and pieces performed, but never the whole ballet. Of the performances I've seen, a few were done by professionals; but most were done by amateurs. All were entertaining. I don't know the whole story. I gather that it involves Toy soldiers, a Nutcracker, a Rat King, and a Fairy, and some children. And there seems to be a few numbers that are all about treats, as in sweets and drinks. I've no clue about the plot and characters. And I don't want to know until I've seen the whole ballet myself. No spoilers, please. I want to be surprised when I see the whole performance myself.

And while I have not seen the entire Nutcracker ballet, I am familiar with its music. And the music is amazing and gorgeous. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created a sublime masterpiece with The Nutcracker Suite. In a majestic class of its own, the music is scintillating and enchanting and has become iconic. These selections have become recognized and familiar all over the world for their beauty and charm and grace.

I recognize many of these songs from their prolific use in many places, across all media and means of communication. I've heard them on the radio and from live performances. I've seen them on tv, and films, and various stage productions, and festivals. But I've never seen a full production of The Nutcracker, though I hope to someday. But until I see a genuine performance of the Nutcracker ballet, I will have to content myself with the music.

Until I sat down and researched the Classics for this post, I was surprised by just how familiar I am with many of Tchaikovsky's works. And I have been listening to many of them all my life. The same may hold true for you. I may not have known their proper names or who created them, but the songs stood out, because they are beautiful, timeless, evocative, and fantastic.

The Nutcracker's appeal is boundless and universal. In the realm of holiday classics, The Nutcracker stand alone in its majesty and richness. The wondrous sounds make these precious songs welcomed and cherished year round. I love listening to the fantastic and charming sounds of The Nutcracker any time, anywhere, because it is an extraordinary creation, a treasured work of art. And I hope that you, too, enjoy listening to the scintillating sounds of The Nutcracker.

If the music clip won't load or play correctly, then click on the song name to open or download the piece. Ordinarily, I would make the link in the artist name, but since it's the same artist who created all these works, I thought it would make more sense to click on the song name to open or download it, in case the clip does not load or play properly. And as always, please let me know your thoughts, and tell me if you come across any problems that need my attention. Your feedback helps me improve this site and has an impact on my experimenting with adding music to the site. Thank you. And have a very Happy Holidays to y'all.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Overture



The Overture is an inviting warm up, like hot chocolate on a cold, snowy day. This piece lulls you in, and covers you with comfort, and promises good times and cheer to come. It is the perfect way to set the mood and welcome listeners.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: III. March



The March is a triumphant and grand creation. It has all the hallmarks that define and exemplify an extraordinary ballet. It is a sophisticated, finely crafted work of art that enchants and stirs up passion. I love this song. It's fun, it's lively, and thrilling. It's festive and inviting and sensational.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Waltz of the Snowflakes



The Waltz of the Snowflakes starts off slow, sweet, and enchanting, with an angelic chorus serenading you to serenity before it suddenly sweeps you off your feet and takes you off to a grand, exciting adventure. What started as gentle snowflakes falling lightly from the heavens turns into a full on blizzard that overwhelms all else, capturing your full attention, drowning out everything else. And after several surprise turns, it finally eases up, leaving behind a world transformed and changed in its wake.

The Waltz of the Snowflakes is different from the other works, because it incorporates voices, and it makes for a heavenly, magical sound. And I like it, and I am surprised that such a modern sound is actually very old. The Waltz of the Snowflakes is alluring, timeless, and graceful.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Chocolate (Spanish Dance)



I love the lively sounds of the trumpets and feisty castanets that make the Spanish Dance such a festive and vivacious piece. It sets the mood for a great party. This work is also known as Chocolate. I'm guessing the Spanish connection is for the Spaniards who took chocolate from the Americas and introduced it to the world.

I would like to thank the Swiss for transforming chocolate from a bitter drink to the sweet, decadent icon of indulgence and a divine treat that's treasured the world over. Chocolate is a welcomed treat all year round. But for winter, the beverage of choice is hot chocolate. I love having hot chocolate during the holidays. It warms up the body and soothes the soul. It is a wonderful holiday treat, made more special when shared with friends and loved ones.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71a: Candy Canes (Russian Dance) also known as Trepak



The Russian Dance is one of my fave pieces! And chances are, it's one of your favorites, too. So full of life and joy and energy! It is a fun and festive song, delightful and cheerful and a spirited celebration of life.

This piece is also known as Candy Canes. I don't usually eat candy canes, except for this time of year when they are everywhere. But I do load up on them when they go on sale, at deep discount, right after the holidays. They're not really sweet, but they contain that hint of peppermint that's just subtle enough to be cool and tingly, without reminding me of toothpaste. That little bit of peppermint essence adds a zing, an extra layer of flavor that makes hot chocolate and coffee taste a bit more zesty, refreshing, and pleasant.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Coffee (Arabian Dance)



The Arabian Dance is a haunting and exotic piece, very mysterious and different. This piece is also known as the Coffee Dance. It makes sense since the Arabs discovered and introduced and spread coffee to the rest of the world.

And coffee, I like to drown in milk and sugar, and for the holidays, sprinkled with crushed candy canes and stirred with a candy cane swizzle. I even like to mix my coffee with eggnog during the holidays. I'll drink coffee hot, warm, or cold, so long as it's sweet. My fave topping for coffee is vanilla ice cream. I don't know how people can drink coffee black. Black coffee just tastes terrible and awful to me! Just black coffee, unsweetened, is harsh! I need sugar to enjoy coffee, some sweetness to balance out the bitterness.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Tea (Chinese Dance)



The Chinese Dance is a lively, celebratory work, upbeat and inviting. This piece is also known as the Tea Dance. Tea was discovered in China, and from China, it spread to the rest of the world. I like my tea sweet, hot or cold. I like it with or without milk. And for the holidays, I like it with crushed candy canes. And for a special treat, I especially love mixing tea with raspberries. Mix the muddled raspberries, juice, and sugar with sweet iced tea. Add mint if you want, and enjoy. I also like it hot. The flavor of raspberry tea is fantastic and divine!

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Polichinelle (Mother Ginger and the Clowns Dance)



What a festive and vibrant piece the Clowns Dance is! This is such a joyous, wild, and celebratory song. It's a party song, a carnival song, full of holiday revelry and frivolities, reminding us to dance and have a good time. Eat, drink, and be merry! Put the Happy into the Holidays! Don't miss out on all the wonderful people and good things that you have in your life. Live life with love, and love the life you live.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Dance of the Reed-Flutes (Danse des Mirlitons)



The Dance of the Reed-Flutes is a splendid, supreme, and spectacular standard in ballet and music. It is a stunning, masterful creation, so eloquent and light and delicate, flitting like a vibrant butterfly, floating from flower to flower.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Pas de Deux



The Pas de Deux is a grand and resplendent masterpiece, sweeping all in its regal scale.
It is a reminder that though life is complex and often encompasses large portions of time, it is best appreciated on a smaller scale, in the moments when we stop, look, listen, and appreciate where we are, how far we've come, and who we are with. It's important to be aware of the present, to cherish the time and people that you have now at this very moment in life.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy



One of the most recognizable and iconic pieces of music, the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is the standard for ballet. This song always makes me think of dreams, dancing, and dessert. It calls to mind the wonders of the holidays, along with snow and fireplaces and the magic of the seasons.

On a side note, when I first heard of the name Sugar Plum Fairy, I was confused. I like sugar, and I had an idea that a fairy was a magical creature. But plum? I did not like plums. I was six years old and just learned the hard way that plums have pits in the middle, and they are hard! One of my older sisters had gotten some plums, and she shared them with us. My two brothers and I had never had plums before. It looked funny, smelled different, but it felt like a fruit. Feeling brave, I was the first of us to take a bite.

And I bit right into a hard pit! That was an unpleasant surprise. My siblings laughed. I didn't think it was so funny nearly breaking a tooth on a pit! I ate around the pit, but was soured by my hard pit experience.

A short while later, Mom shared with us some prunes she had gotten. At six years old, I didn't know that prunes are dried plums. So one bite, and I accidentally swallowed a pit! My second experience with plums was also my second bad experience with a pit! I was not happy to almost choke on a hard pit going down my throat. But there was something about the sweet, tangy taste of prunes that made me try a few more.

I'm still not a big fan of plums and prunes. I won't seek them out. But if I come across them, I'll take a bite, only, I'm much wiser now and know to watch out for the pit. And isn't that life? With sweetness, there also lurks a hard pit. The trick is to work around the hard, unpleasant parts and not let it keep you from enjoying the wonderful, sweet aspects of life.

On a related note, when I visited Hawaii, I was surprised to learn that they make a candy out of the plum pit. It's just sugar candied around a plum pit! And even more flabbergasting, the plum pit candy is very popular in Asia! Who the heck wants to suck on a hard pit? I'd much rather have chocolate or caramel or even just regular hard candy! To each their own, I suppose. If it makes you happy, then enjoy your sweets.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: Waltz of the Flowers



The Waltz of the Flowers is a signature ballet classic and dance treasure; this jewel is serene and gorgeous; it is a truly iconic work of art. It is a wonderful dreamy reward to a most magical adventure; this piece soars and floats and dances like a snowflake upon winter winds--swirling, twirling, spinning high above the snow covered woods. It is a scintillating reminder to seize the day and live fully and joyfully.

Take some time to treat yourself. The holidays are busy and stressful. It's important that you take time to rest, refresh, replenish, and reward yourself. Have a dessert. Have a donut or pudding or a grilled cheese sandwich. Have an entire can of BBQ or ranch flavored chips. Have a delicious cup of hot chocolate or coffee or tea; sprinkle them with crushed candy canes or stir them with a candy cane swizzle. And if you're feeling adventurous, mix a little eggnog into your hot chocolate and coffee. It's important to take a time out from the hustle and bustle and pause to give yourself a break and enjoy life.

The Nutcracker is a great escape. The music is splendid, and it is a reminder that there is beauty and wonder in this world, and I hope that you get to enjoy some of it.

Thank you for your support and friendship. I truly appreciate it. I wish you a Very Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones. May the season bring you joy and peace, and May the New Year bring you serenity, good health, and good experiences. Stay warm, be safe, and have a wonderful Holiday Season. Cheers!

Related Links
The Sound of Music 1: The Classics - Ephemeral
The Sound of Music 2: The Classics - Ethereal
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 1
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 2

8 comments:

  1. I do like a bit of Tchaikovsky - especially The Nutcracker! I'll have to listen to these a bit later on as I need to go off and do some chores right now (although, these are excellent soundtracks to household tasks).

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    1. IDV, Tchaikovsky is brilliant. I didn't realize how much of his works I have enjoyed over the years until I sat down and researched the Classics that I enjoy listening to while I work or play. And The Nutcracker is a nice soundtrack to make chores a bit more pleasant.

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  2. Wonderful marker of the season.

    I have seen three semi-professional productions of the Nutcracker. The principal roles by advanced dancers and the other roles by student dancers, all from local ballet schools. Live orchestra as well. The productions were professionally staged at the Bass Concert Hall at the University of Texas. All very enjoyable.

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    1. LX, That's awesome you've seen three great productions of The Nutcracker! And I like that they used a mix of professional and student dancers, which I understand is the best way to perform The Nutcracker. I need to find the time or a production that I can attend, so I can finally see the whole ballet in all its glory. When I talk to anyone who has seen The Nutcracker, they always tell me it's a great ballet. And I want to see it as part of the Holidays festivities.

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  3. It's absolutely lovely! Thank you for sharing the music today. If you get a chance check out http://interactive.wttw.com/making-an-american-nutcracker It's fantastic! It's about the staging of the Nutcracker, but as an American story set against the opening of the Chicago World's Fair!

    Happy Christmas and Happy New Year, sweetpea!! xoxox

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    1. Savannah, You're welcome! I'm glad you liked it. And thank you for the link. It's fascinating to see this reinterpretation of a classic. Now I want to see an original production and compare it to this new version. I think there's room for creativity and freedom in the arts. A good show is a good show. And I'd love to see a good show.

      Happy Holidays to you and yours! Cheers!

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  4. No, no, thank YOU for your support and friendship.

    Life is sometimes "the pits" but as you said, "The trick is to work around the hard, unpleasant parts and not let it keep you from enjoying the wonderful, sweet aspects of life."

    My neighbour brought a variety of freshly baked cookies to my door this evening; an act of good will in the holiday season. They're delicious! It's these sort of gestures that make life sweet.

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    1. MJ, Thanks for the kind words. Your neighbor is awesome! That's fantastic that they shared cookies with you! I'm so happy to see that goodwill and kindness still exist. Those acts of kindness really do make life wonderful. It makes me feel happy and hopeful for the world.

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