There are times where the only thing that helps me concentrate at work is some classical music (or ambient music like Digital Rain by Johnny Jewel). I have pretty much done Chopin’s Etudes and Beethoven’s Kreutzer to death by this point so, for whatever reason, I decided to pop on The Nutcracker.
Despite only writing three ballets, it is hard to deny that Tchaikovsky didn’t write three classics. With The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty (which I’m actually seeing in a few months) to his name, it makes me wonder why he didn’t write more of them. He obviously has an incredible talent for them and having listened to The Nutcracker on Spotify… well I just want to see it live now.
Having read up on the story that the music is written for, I do wonder whether knowing this even matters. In the end, for a ballet like The Nutcracker, it really is a bunch of beautifully composed and choreographed set pieces loosely stuck together with a narrative thread.
I mean, it is easy enough to deduce from the music alone that the second act of the ballet is the more fanciful and far more interesting than the first one. I’m likely not alone in saying that my favourite section of music in this ballet is the Divertissement in the second act – where the different residents of the Kingdom of Sweets dance for the heroine (the Chinese and the Russian dances being my favourites).
Now, I swear that I’ll be done with the Fantasia music soon. It might make sense for me to prioritise it over the rest of the list; just so that I am able to listen to more music with fresh ears and fresh images in my brain. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to have the dancing thistles in my head for the ‘Russian Dance’, but I like to be able to think of my own interpretations rather than remember someone else’s.
At least when I see Sleeping Beauty live I will be able to associate that music with the live ballet more than the animated film. Well, live in hope.