Recordings of The Nutcracker usually come thick and fast around the holidays. Orchestras and ballet companies have made fortunes performing the perennially wonderful music and telling the story. If only Tchaikovsky knew? And, what about Disney?
I usually bin the idea of listening to the ‘Suite’, be it Nutcracker or Firebird—both Russian fairy tales sound much better in their original, ‘full’ guise. As for ‘Suites’, composers and publishers like to cover every financial angle, Stravinsky, especially! As for The Nutcracker, there is so much glorious music in the full ballet, it’s the way I think it should be enjoyed. If you must have the Suite, The Royal Ballet Gala on RCA vinyl or Rostropovich/Berlin/DG on CD are the way to go.
Recently, a few ‘star’ releases have been disappointments (Rattle/Berlin cool and Gergiev/Mariinsky ridiculously fast tempos). So, it is with great pleasure I can add this new Dudamel/Los Angeles Philharmonic recent release on Deutsche Grammophon to the list of recommended Nutcrackers.
The recording is outstanding. Vibrant, detailed, with lots of bass (check out the Christmas tree reveal). The many solos fit beautifully in the orchestral fabric—no insane highlighting. I’m assuming the recording is from the Disney Concert Hall.
Dudamel keeps the tempos moving, but the music sounds energetic and joyful, not rushed. The orchestra sounds fabulous, continuing the improvement under its star conductor. You won’t hear better horns in Waltz of the Flowers—perfect legato with staccato eighths in just the right places. And while my favourite Nutcracker, David Zinman/NYC Ballet Orchestra has the most musical A Pine Forest in Winter (easily the most beautiful music in the ballet), Dudamel’s orchestra is sublime. Perfect ensemble and gorgeous trombone harmony perfectly in tune.
If you are a vinyl head, you’ll have the Previn/LSO/EMI, a masterpiece of playing and recording. If you’re looking for digital, your musical cavalier is here. Vey highly recommended.
PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Int. Release 30 Nov. 2018
2 CDs / Download
0289 483 6274 5