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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Nutcracker
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...
Published on 6 Nov 2010 by JJA Kiefte

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sir Simon among the Scythians
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...
Published 5 months ago by Bernard Michael O'Hanlon


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Nutcracker, 6 Nov 2010
By 
JJA Kiefte "Joost Kiefte" (Tegelen, Nederland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
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!

Note (10-12-2010): on fellow reviewer Marc Haegeman's suggestion I bought Semyon Bychkov's 1986 BPO recording on Philips; while the conducting/playing is perhaps more characterful and manages to tell the story more convincingly by showing more affinity with a ballet performance, Rattle's soloist are more prominent and display more beauty and roundness of tone. Also, Rattle's performance manages to capture an ethereal quality (perhaps best reflected in the boys choir's singing) which eludes Bychkov and the overall sound is fuller and richer. I for one cannot find fault with Rattle's BPO indulging in the sheer beauty of the music just for beauty's sake, and while I'm pleased to have Bychkov's as a performance, it's Rattle's set I will be returning to more often for sheer listening pleasure.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giddy Brilliance, 13 Dec 2011
By 
Entartete Musik (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
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. Most notably, Rattle's really thought about the ballet's emotional context. For him and his players, it's not just an orchestral showcase. Underlining the melancholy of Tchaikovsky's score, this Nutcracker confronts the unhappy and lost soul who wrote it. The power and space given to the melodies allows the piece to wear an ambiguous heart on its sleeve. This is proper grown-up stuff, addressing the loss of innocence as well as the garish tinsel of Christmas. By knocking off the dust of routine, Tchaikovsky's seasonal jewel sparkles once more. And Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic's emotional clarity reminds us why we all fell for The Nutcracker in the first place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magician "The Nutcracker", 9 May 2012
This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
Sir Simon Rattle's recording of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" is very funny, interesting and magician. Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra plays wonderful and Sir Simon Rattle is good conductor. This recording is fantastic! I love "The Nutcracker" and this cd is the best recording of Tchaikovsky's masterwork. Excellent job! I recommend!! :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sir Simon among the Scythians, 20 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (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.

Exhibit 3 is the crudity on display in Track 9 - "In the Pine Forest" at 3'00" ff. The Berlin Philharmonic might as well be a splatter-gun volcano. It's clearly off the leash. There's no excuse: one must listen to one another, even at forte fortissimo. Comparing this eruption with Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker, Op.71 (complete) / (3) selections from Eugene Onegin is like measuring a souped up muscle car with the refinement of a Mercedes M275 6.0 L V12 BiTurbo. Karajan never recorded the Nutcracker in its entirety. His 1971 recording of the Sleeping Beauty Suite (and the Lilac Fairy in particular) likewise telegraphs Rattle's limitations (Famous Ballet Music ~ Gaîté Parisienne, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia, Les Sylphides / von Karajan, Berlin PO). Yes Veronica, it is possible to unleash a China Syndrome and not lose control of the meltdown.

The great is the enemy of the good. Rattle came. He saw. He fought it out but failed to conquer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Recording, 7 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
This recording is excellent and has given my wife hours of pleasure since I bought it as a Christmas present. the description was clear and precise. Price was also good.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rattle and Berlin give a marvelous, detailed performance of the famed Nutcracker, 4 Jan 2011
By 
Andrew R. Barnard (Leola, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
As a young child, I was fascinated by the Nutcracker. When I heard that Sir Simon Rattle and the mighty Berlin Philharmonic had recorded this masterpiece, I couldn't wait to check it out. And I am quite glad I did. This is a recording that is full of amazing detail and precision - even the negative reviewers admit this. While some have accused this recording of being too "relaxed and uneventful", I find this recording to be full of drama and excitement. Sure, some numbers come across better than others; the "Overture" and "March", as reviewer Santa Fe Listener pointed out, are less than the best. But this is more than made up for with some of the other movements - the "Waltz of the Snowflakes", with the famed boy-choir Libera, is hair-raising.

Other reviewers have commented on Rattle's Tchaikovsky track record - he hasn't done much of him. So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that when he finally turned to him, he would provide a bit of a new look at the composer's music. As much of a Rattle fan as I am, it took me a bit of listening to appreciate it. I found it, well, quite shocking. Rattle certainly wasn't trying to mimic the standard Nutcracker performance and his new approach took some time for me to get used to. But after I adjusted to it, I came to love it more than my other Nutcracker recordings, which are also excellent. Rattle pulls wonderful detail from Berlin (talk about a great orchestra)!, but he avoids sentimentality. Berlin's players are, as always, marvelous - you will likely notice passages that you never noticed before. The 1st oboist, Albrecht Mayer, is especially good.

I dare say that this a must-have. While it may not replace your favorite Nutcracker recordings (although it might), it will provide hours of listening pleasure.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On unfamiliar ground, 16 Nov 2010
By 
Marc Haegeman "Marc Haegeman" (Gent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
It's amusing to read from a conductor in a foreword to his newest recording, moreover meant to feature as plat de résistance of his 30 years with EMI campaign, that he previously hasn't been much of a fan of the composer he is playing. Of course, it has never been a secret that Simon Rattle isn't a Tchaikovskian and anyone who remembers the budding maestro accompanying Russian pianist Emil Gilels in Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto in the early Birmingham days, knows this went hand in hand with an evident lack of affinity with the composer's world. And although the light often appears with age and Rattle readily admits he always has had a soft spot for the ballets, a complete recording of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" with the Berlin Philharmonic is still something of a surprise.

I wish, though, it would have been an event as well. Rattle's "Nutcracker" was recorded in late December 2009, with the 2nd Act spliced from the Silvesterkonzert to a studio recording. What immediately struck me are the lack of imagination and atmosphere of Rattle's approach. Surely, he gives us beautifully played snapshots, spotlighting Tchaikovsky's ever inventive orchestration as well as honoring the composer's dynamic markings, but he doesn't share much of a story and the few dramatic snippets he finds are sadly missing in evocative power. Rattle seems to be discovering the score and is mesmerized by the wealth of its melodies, but more than that as yet he isn't able to give. While Rattle rightfully emphasizes in his foreword the revolutionary quality of the score, highly influential on Stravinsky's ballets, his reading remains too relaxed and uneventful to convince. Don't try looking for the magic of a Christmas night here. The 1st scene is already played so uninvitingly off-hand that all you want to do is leave right away and look for a more promising party. Characteristically, the Berlin Philharmonic luxuriously wallows in its own virtuosity, yet it all sounds too much of a slick beauty contest without body and even less soul. Although expansively recorded the more weightier moments in the music lack punch as if Rattle always seems to hold back in the climaxes. After a rather unexciting battle, "In The Pine Forest" is curiously hesitant and disregards the sense of discovery and magic of the scene. The Pas de deux in Act 2 never really blooms.

The EMI recording lacks detail and clarity, which spoils much of the fun in this brilliant score. Strings and woodwinds are forwardly balanced, and during the orchestral climaxes in Act 1 the Berlin machinery tends to sound congested.

Other conductors have given us far more satisfying readings: Ernest Ansermet finding character in every note; Antal Dorati, especially his recording with the Concertgebouw Amsterdam; Semyon Bychkov with a Berlin Philharmonic sounding far more inspired in 1986; Valery Gergiev with the Mariinsky Orchestra in one of his very best moments on disc. For a selection of excerpts Yevgeni Mravinsky with the Leningrad Philharmonic remains required listening.

(This recording is also released in a deluxe format, offered as a beautifully illustrated miniature hardcover book of some 60 pages, including next to Rattle's foreword, an essay on the history of the ballet (by John Warrack), a synopsis, and notes on the Berlin Philharmonic and the conductor.)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bargain download price, 24 Feb 2012
I bought this at a bargain download price. Wonderfully subtle and seductive playing but avoids the self-indulgence of some performances.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars revealing recording, 1 Feb 2011
This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Audio CD)
i approached this recording with great anticipation as i have great respect for the musical integrity and drama that Rattle brings to performances and recordings. i was not disappointed here. There are many aspects of this wonderful orchestration that only us in the orchestra are generally aware of. Most of them are here in full digital glory. Such a shame that the piccolo was so quiet at the end of the pas de deux in Act2, or it would have been 5 stars without guestion. This recording is beautiful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC!!! :), 14 Dec 2011
This is my favourite ballet!!

This is the best cd of the ballet I have found so far as
it has songs that haven't been on other cd's.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves ballet or
more specifically the Nutcracker. :)
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Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (Audio CD - 2010)
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