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About this Piece

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's final ballet, The Nutcracker, is based on a story by the Romantic writer and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann. It premiered in St. Petersburg on a double-bill with the ill-starred opera Iolanta in December 1892 and has been a holiday favorite ever since. In the ballet, Clara gets a Nutcracker as a Christmas gift from her creepy uncle, Drosselmeyer. The Nutcracker comes to life, defeats an army of rats, and whisks Clara away to the land of sweets for what amounts to an act-long divertissement.

With childlike innocence, Tchaikovsky conjures up the candy kingdom of this divertissement, introducing various fantastical characters and exotic nationalities as well as providing the necessary sweeping tunes audiences had come to expect in his ballet scores. The Pas de Deux opens with a long-breathed melody for the cellos before building to an overwhelming climax, and it provides an opportunity to sample Tchaikovsky's genius for this type of music beyond the confines of the standard Nutcracker Suite.

John Mangum