Analyzing the musical appeal of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”

Posted on: December 21, 2017

“Conductor Scott Speck, who co-authored Classical Music for Dummies and leads the Chicago Philharmonic for performances of The Nutcracker with Joffrey Ballet, explained what makes Tchaikovsky’s score as addictive as your favorite holiday treats,” writes Stephen Raskauskas last Wednesday (12/13) at Chicago radio station WFMT. “Speck is a nut for The Nutcracker…. He’s conducted approximately 350 performances of the ballet, both with Joffrey and other companies across the United States.” Says Speck, “In The Nutcracker, we hear … new melodies almost every minute for two hours, which is beyond what even the greatest film composers do sometimes…. [The Act I March] never feels ponderous because of the staccato rhythms… It’s the kind of march you might expect toy soldiers to do.’ … [The trépak is a] hyper energetic Russian dance…. It’s fast and it gets faster … the ultimate dance aerobics.… It ends with a galloping accelerando that the orchestra plays as quickly as the dancers can dance to it…. [In] the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy … the sound of the celesta, combined with the use of pizzicato strings sounds like angels balancing on the head of a pin.” Included are score excerpts and audio examples from the Nutcracker.

Posted December 21, 2017

Pictured: Snow scene in the Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker.” Photo by Cheryl Mann