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Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Double CD

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Composer: Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
  • Audio CD (1 Nov 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Double CD
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,402 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Miniature Overture
2. No. 1 - The Decoration of the Christmas Tree
3. No. 2 - March
4. No. 3 - Children's Galop and Entry of the Parents
5. No. 4 - Arrival of Drosselmeyer
6. No. 5 - Scene - Grandfather's Dance
7. No. 6 - Clara and the Nutcracker
8. No. 7 - The Battle
9. No. 8 - In the Pine Forest
10. No. 9 - Waltz of the Snowflakes
Disc: 2
1. No. 10 - The Kingdom of Sweets
2. No. 11 - Clara and the Prince
3. Chocolate: Spanish Dance
4. Coffee: Arabian Dance
5. Tea: Chinese Dance
6. Trepak: Russian Dance
7. Dance of the Reed Pipes
8. Mother Gigogne
9. No. 13 - Waltz of the Flowers
10. No. 14 - Pas de deux
See all 14 tracks on this disc

Product Description

CD Description

Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker have recorded the most performed ballet of all time, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. The release marks the conductor's first Tchaikovsky recording. This recording also features an appearance by the boy band Libera.

The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1891. It has since become a Christmas tradition in many countries around the world.

Simon Rattle is an award-winning conductor, and Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker orchestra.

BBC Review

Simon Rattle has produced a conception-buster of a disc here. As a general rule, The Nutcracker feels like the comfort blanket of the ballet repertoire: a much-loved, known quantity of solid, 19th century sumptous prettiness. However, Rattle has taken his expertise in early 20th century music and brilliantly applied it backwards to Tchaikovsky. The result is enlightening. You clearly hear how Act I inspired Stravinsky when writing Petrushka, and there's also more than a whisper of Ravel in the overall tone of bright, nostalgic modernity.

The Nutcracker's action is set on Christmas Eve, when Clara is given a nutcracker toy by her mysterious godfather. At midnight the toy comes alive. After Clara helps him to conquor the evil Mouse King in battle, he turns into a prince and leads her to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them to a series of fantastic dances. These dances make up one of the few balletic divertissements (diversions from the main plot) that is indisputably integral to the evenings enjoyment, rather than the cue for non-hardcore ballet fans to start clock-watching. The reason is that they include many of the most memorable and popular pieces in the whole classical canon, such as Waltz of the Flowers and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It's so infectiously, festively fun that even the Berlin Philharmoniker, famed more for their rich, smooth perfection than for letting their hair down, has fallen into party mode, albeit of the cocktail rather than the student shin-dig variety. The Battle crackles brightly with military tension, half-aware that the most deadly weapon will turn out to be a thrown slipper. Later, in the smouldering coffee dance, the clarinet langourously rises and snakes over the orchestra like an exotic swirl of steam rising up from the dark spiciness of the cup beneath.

The recording is released in three editions. Whilst the single-CD edition contains musical highlights, this performance is worth owning in full. Of the two double-CD, complete-work options, there is a Standard Edition or an Experience Edition, the latter of which includes a larger hardback book, greater online content, and a free 24-hour pass to the Berlin Philharmoniker's online concert hall.

--Charlotte Gardner

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By JJA Kiefte on 6 Nov 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Some reviewers think this performance lacking in real warmth, feeling and even danceability. Climaxes are underplayed, sound is congested and the musicians seem to be playing just for themselves (whatever that means). Professional reviewers are cited to prove the point. Well, with the same amount of effort one can find quite a few positive reviews on the Internet (NPR Music's Brian Newhouse, the Independent's Andy Gill, John J. Puccio on Classical Candor etc.). I have listened to the discs several times over the past few days, with and without earphones, and I can find very little fault with the recording. The playing is of an extraordinarily high quality, the instrumental solos are spectacularly well done and with great beauty of tone. The strings sing as strings should, the horns are magnificent, the important harp is faultless. Rattle lets the music flow organically and there's never the idea of deliberateness or irksome mannerisms. Not danceable? My daughter, who is training to be a ballet dancer, immediately swayed across the room when I first put the disc on. No problem there I should say. Yes, perhaps orchestra and conductor do revel in the beauty of the music and their own musicianship. But what's wrong with beauty for beauty's sake I wonder?
Recorded sound is very lively and sparkling, bass well rounded, all instruments are clearly audible, without excessive reverb. I will play this very often, it is a perfect medicine against an upcoming winter depression. Well done Sir Simon!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Entartete Musik TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 Dec 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Deaf to years of theatrical compromise, Rattle comes to the score unsullied. And like a first-class picture restoration, there's renewed giddy brilliance to its colours and textures. It comes up against tough competition with Gergiev's 1998 recording on Philips. Gergiev's orchestra has all the expected verve, but it lacks the emotional chops of the Berlin Phil. And while the Russians' performance is squeezed on to one disc, EMI gives Rattle the luxury of two; it allows the ballet to breathe.

The added space, however, doesn't make for any unwanted sluggishness. Right from Clara's poignant first meeting with the Nutcracker to the vodka-shot clout of the Russian Dance, there's real tang to these melodious treats. And you hear danger too, with brusque woodwind accents during the Mouse King battle and snarling trombones under the snowflakes. Throughout, Rattle maintains that balance between sweet and sour. And the whole performance feels distinctly more fleet of foot than Andre Previn's rather bulky rendition with the LSO (recently re-released on EMI).

Following that broad lead, Pletnev's Russian National Orchestra version, just out on Ondine, overplays the ballet's symphonic credentials. While it worked for the orchestra's benchmark Sleeping Beauty on DG, in The Nutcracker a conductor has to ensure that emotion doesn't overwhelm the thrill. Too often Pletnev's overplays his hand with pizzicato sounding like Bartók. Someone who better knows the work's temperament is Mark Ermler with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (now available at bargain price on Sony). Unsurprisingly, the seasoned ROH dance-accompanists know how to make this music swing.

But none of these contenders matches the Berlin recording's all-round passion and pizazz.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon on 20 Mar 2014
Format: Audio CD
It is always good fun to romanise . . . stuff. Not every emperor on the Palatine could be an Augustus or Trajan or Aurelian `Restitutor Orbis'. Take the Berlin Philharmonic. However one might analogise the likes of Furtwangler or Herbie, Valerian (AD 253 - 259) always comes to mind when I think of Claudio Abbado. What of Rattle, you ask. It's back to the books. I suggest Severus Alexander (AD 222 - 235). Sir Simon - heed the bellicosity of your legions! Subjugate the Germans! Don't subsidize the buggers!

The analogy holds true: just as the last of the Severans undertook his calamitous Persian Campaign of AD 232, here's Sir Simon in unfamiliar territory: the music of Piotr Tchaikovsky. This is a competent and polished performance from a conductor who is not a natural in this domain. Even so, it's hard to disagree with the reviews of Marc Haegeman and SFL: for the incidental glories of the Berlin Philharmonic, this slick account is not balletic in the least. Where it succeeds, it does so on the basis of symphonic strength. Even so, it testifies to the shortcomings of the present Imperium.

I have long maintained that the current Berlin Philharmonic is unable to convey menace, disquiet and "nagging complexities" like it did so masterfully in days of yore (perhaps it is time for another war to sharpen up its metaphysical sensitivities). If there is any tension in the Battle Scene (say, at 2'25" ff onwards), it's lost on me.

Consider Pas de deux - the heart of this masterpiece. Tension is sorely lacking at 2'17" to 2'34" (one of Rattle's incessant faults). Worse still, he gets sucked into a false climax at 2'42" when it should be 3'34". Come 3'50" - 4'21", one should raise an elegy for the strings of the Berlin Philharmonic: how ordinary they sound.
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