Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Written as a two-act ballet in 1892, the story is based on T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 short story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” Tchaikovsky’s evocative and colorful music, combined with the brilliant choreography of Lev Ivanov and others, have created a timeless Christmas classic.
Today we will hear (and watch) the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. This dance was somewhat revolutionary in its time, for it introduced a new instrument to the world: the celeste. Since then, the celeste has been used by Frank Sinatra, Gustav Mahler, John Williams, Bela Bartok, and dozens of other famous musicians. The celeste operates like most of the other keyboard instruments: keys trigger hammers that strike metal plates suspended over wooden resonating blocks. Tchaikovsky used it to create a delicate, sparkling atmosphere that feels magical and childish at the same time.