Today’s post represents the first appearance on this blog of the music of Tchaikovsky. Seattle is one of many cities that regularly mount a production of his ballet The Nutcracker at Christmastime, and in keeping with that tradition, I have selected a performance of The Nutcracker Suite in a sparkling transcription for two pianos by Nicolas Economu.
I was introduced to this music in 1956 when my parents took my brothers and me to Disney’s landmark movie Fantasia. To this day, I can’t listen to the Chinese Dance (the 6th movement of this suite) without imagining a troupe of dancing mushrooms, with one small mushroom trying valiantly to keep up with the rest.
Many years later, when I was working for Nordstrom, I was in the fortunate position of hearing pianist Joel Baker perform almost every day. Nordstrom was very strict about not beginning their Christmas celebrations until after Thanksgiving, and every year, one of the best things for me about Black Friday – and the entire Christmas season – was listening to Joel play The Nutcracker.
These days, Joel can be found at several venues in Palm Springs, California, including the Streetbar on Mondays, the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Thursdays, and the Azul Restaurant on Sundays. If you like listening to classic show tunes played with great feeling by a wonderful pianist, be sure to pay him a visit if you’re in the area.
This video features the duo piano team of Martha Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein. Martha is no stranger to this blog and needs no introduction, but Lilya Zilberstein may be as new to you as she was to me. Listen to what Martha had to say about Lilya in an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica: “Lilya is a flawless pianist with a completely natural way of playing, simply world class! Luckily she wasn’t competing with me in the 1957 Busoni Competition – that would have been really hard for me.” We will be seeing Lilya again on this blog very soon indeed!
Listening to this brilliant performance, I am struck over and over by Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary gift for melody. If ever the expression, “a song in his heart”, applied to anyone, it applied to Tchaikovsky.
Here are the titles of the different movements, together with the time of their appearance in the video that follows:1. Miniature Overture (0:40) 2. Marche (3:40) 3. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (6:00) 4. Russian Dance (Trepak) (8:12) 5. Arabian Dance (9:20) 6. Chinese Dance (12:50) 7. Dance of the Flutes (13:45) 8. Waltz of the Flowers (16:00)