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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Nationalist Era > Suite, "Casse Noisette" ("Nutcracker"). Op. 71 (Tchaikovsky)


Suite, "Casse Noisette" ("Nutcracker"). Op. 71

Pytor Il'yich Tchaikovsky
(1840-93)



The "Casse Noisette" Suite is a fascinating trifle as compared with most of Tchaikovsky’s works, though it is exceedingly graceful in its style and skilful in construction. It was originally written as a fairy ballet in fifteen numbers, and from them the composer arranged the suite. It is laid out in three parts, viz.: 1. "Overture Miniature." 2. "Danses Caractéristiques," comprising "Marche," "Danse de la Fée Dragée," "Trepac (Danse Russe)," "Danse Arabe," " Danse Chinoise" and "Danse des Mirlitons." 3. "Valse des Fleurs." The overture, bright and dainty, is scored without cellos and double basses, which, to a degree, determines it character. The march is divided into a military theme, given by the wind instruments, alternating with a second phrase given by the strings, and a middle movement which might be called the Trio, and which is built up on a similar exchange between flutes and violins. The "Danse de la Fée Dragée" is another bit of instrumental legerdemain, at the close of which the fairy seems to dart out of sight. The dance theme is given to a "celeste" (a keyed instrument with steel tongs in the place of wires) or a piano. The "Russian Dance" has all the characteristic monotonous swing which is peculiar to the popular melodies of the Slav. The "Danse Arabe" is not less characteristic. Minor in mood, the melody sings along in thirds with those florid cadences which are the sine qua non of Arabic music. In utter contrast is the following "Danse Chinoise," a kind of caricature which seems to answer the purpose and is given by the piccolo and flute. "Les Mirlitons" is furnished with a kind of "staccato polka," cleverly worked up, while the "Danse des Fleurs" is a waltz, having in parts a Strauss-like swing.





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