The Nutcracker is an incredibly famous ballet and concert that was first premiered in 1892 in a Russian ballet theater. The music can be considered a classical concert band piece, regularly performed by brass, woodwind, percussion, and occasionally string sections. The compositions associated with this ballet can be considered programmatic, as it is meant to be heard in conjunction with a live theater/ballet performance. The character of the compositions provides a large variety in style and complexity.
The song structure can best be described as polyphonic; however, the entire production includes examples of monophony and homophony as well. Additionally, the variety of the pieces cover duple, triple, quadruple, and compound meter. While the majority of pieces were in a major key, the presence of sections in minor keys adds variety in emotion to the production. Additionally, in regards to my point of view during the performance, I can best be considered a perceptive listener, as I was not listening in a critical, reviewing manner, nor was I listening in order to make past correlations with the music.
This piece is a quadruple meter song that plays mostly on the simplicity of the woodwind section along with the intricacies that the percussion section can add. As one of the more well-known pieces, I enjoyed the song along with the variety in dynamics.
The Christmas Tree
This song provided a much smoother overall effect than the opening piece. While I had never heard it before, it was quite lovely due to its legato quality and ability to convey emotion.
March of the Toy Soldiers
This may be the most well-known piece in the concert, and is very enjoyable. It plays much more on the use of brass instruments and the power of large percussion instruments, such as cymbals.
Children’s Gallop and Dance of the Parents
The tempo of this piece took overall speed and excitement to a new level as compared to the other pieces. The song continues to play on the effectiveness of woodwinds in the ensemble.
Arrival of Drosselmeyer
As compared to other compositions in the production, this piece is clearly in place to set the scene for the acting rather than functioning as a musical piece in itself. It is significantly less intricate than others, and has a much weaker melody and harmony, in my opinion.
Scene and Grandfather Waltz
Like the previous song, I felt this piece was lacking in the power that I was longing for. It was simply background music for the actors rather than inherently entertaining in itself.
Clara and the Nutcracker
This piece was incredibly similar in theme to the Grandfather Waltz, seeming to provide only a solo for the actors while the music could simply fade into the background.
As compared to the other pieces, this song was impeccably effective in conveying the emotions desired, such as excitement, intrigue, and suspense. The complexity of the composition continued to increase as the song progressed. However, the complexity was present for theatrical effect rather than musical enjoyment.
A Pine Forest in Winter
This song had a significantly slower and more legato feel than any piece before it. While it was lovely and played with great musicality, I enjoy songs with faster, more exciting tempos personally.
Waltz of the Snow Flakes
This piece, in my opinion, marks the beginning of the listener’s immersion in the fantasy. Woodwinds play a strong part in the overall effect of the piece, giving it a light and whimsical feel.
The Magic Castle in the Land of Sweets
Like “A Pine Forest in Winter,” this piece was far more legato than others. However, I found this song more enjoyable in itself than the aforementioned. Like the majority of the production, it relies heavily on woodwinds in order to set the mood.
Clara and Nutcracker Prince
This piece seemed, like others, to be present only to highlight the actors present. While I understand the reasoning for simpler music in order to feature others, I prefer the more technically complex compositions.
In regards to the full performance, I find this series of arrangements rather out of place. The music is enjoyable, however, resulting in an impeccable variety of styles, tempos, and characters. To me, though, it has always seemed like this piece exists to fill time rather than for any significant benefit to the production.
Waltz of the Flowers
This is one of the most well-known pieces today. Also, it both combines incredible musical complexity with the featurette of the dance ensemble. The intricacy of the music can provide full entertainment in itself. Overall, I think this is one of my favorite pieces of the entire production.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
This composition highlights the power of an effective percussion section. Although the song gives the effect of simplicity, the intricacies of weaving each section together is remarkable.
Final Waltz and Apotheosis
This piece brings the entire production to a dramatic conclusion that is well-deserved and highly effective.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this production of the Nutcracker. It has long been one of my favorite classical collections, which is often associated with the traditional sense of the Christmas season. I am never disappointed when I get the opportunity to experience this production in a live setting.