N is for Nutcracker

The NY Philharmonic plays a section from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker followed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra playing the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement of the same section.

You are almost certainly familiar with the music from The Nutcracker, a two-act ballet, with “a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on Sunday, 18 December 1892… Although the original production was not a success, the twenty-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was.” Jaquandor shared a link to all the music.

The Nutcracker Suite is also “an album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded… in 1960 featuring jazz interpretations of ‘The Nutcracker’ by Tchaikovsky, arranged by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.”
Toot Toot Tootie Toot (Dance of the Reed-Pipes)
Peanut Brittle Brigade (March)
Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)
The Volga Vouty (Russian Dance)
Chinoiserie (Chinese Dance)
Dance of the Floreadores (Waltz of the Flowers)
Arabesque Cookie (Arabian Dance)

I discovered on YouTube a “Live From Lincoln Center special called ‘Nutcracker Swing’ featuring both the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis that originally aired on PBS in December, 2001.” The compiler said: “As far as I know this special never aired again, nor has it ever been made available to purchase anywhere…The way it works is that the NY Philharmonic plays a section from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker followed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra playing the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement of the same section.

“The special starts with four sections from Wynton Marsalis’ “All Rise,” [parts 2-5], introduced here by Leonard Slatkin [part 1].

There are several other iterations of The Nutcracker, but I’ll deal with just one more. Nutrocker, a rock version of the Nutcracker March, was recorded by B. Bumble & The Stingers, released in February 1962, and went to # 23 in the US and # 1 in the UK. Emerson Lake and Palmer performed it live about a decade later.

These variations show how rich the original music is.

Of course, “the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late 1960s and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in the U.S.” In the Albany, NY area alone, there were at least six different companies performing it in December 2012. On December 16, I watched the Albany Berkshire Ballet performance at both 2:30 (so my daughter could see it) and 6:30 (the performance my daughter was in, as an angel). THAT was a lot of Nutcracker for one day!
American Ballet Theatre’s Paloma Herrera in the Nutcracker with Gennadi Saveliev

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

25 thoughts on “N is for Nutcracker”

  1. Nutcracker was the first ballet I saw live. I LOVED it.

    Fantasia said that Tchaikovsky hated The Nutcracker. I don’t know if that’s true.

  2. I didn’t know about all the different nutcrackers. I’ve seen the ballet and have an album of the music but that’s where my knowledge ended.

  3. I took my daughter to this ballet when she was about 6 and when she was 8, she did her figure skating routine to the music of Waltz of the Flowers. I even made her beautiful dark blue lace outfit and put her long blonde hair up in a bun like a ballerina. We videotaped it but now I don’t know how to get it put onto a DVD. She was so sweet and graceful – what wonderful memories this ballet has for me!

    abcw team

  4. ok I have to admit, I do love the Nutcracker, and love to see a ballet to it each year. But I got sidetracked by the previous post and read it all, top to bottom…so now I am worried and think you should go to the doctor sooner.

  5. We have a dear friend that is in the Ballet Company at the Gallo Center in Modesto, CA…they do the Nut Cracker every Christmas.

  6. I love the Nutcracker and the ballet as well, how beautiful that you posted all these variations! I can’t wait to listen through the selections!

  7. Oh Roger, you have told me a lot of things I didn’t know. Would love to hear some of these variations/interpretations.

  8. B Bumble and the Stingers, what a blast from the past. I’d forgotten about that one. Yes the Nutcracker is a Christmas staple in the UK too.

  9. My daughter was once the Sugar Plum Fairy…ahh, I miss those days when she was dancing! Great choice for N…loved reading about the Nutcracker Suite.

  10. The Nutcracker ballet and it’s music is one of my absolute favorites! I had no idea there were so many renditions. Thanks for the insight:)

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