Wednesday 7 December 2022

I wanted music that would hold the listener’s attention throughout: Kristjan Järvi's Nutcracker: A Dramatic Symphony from the Baltic Sea Philharmonic

Kristjan Järvi and Baltic Sea Philharmonic recording Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker (Photo: Siiri Kumari / Sunbeam Productions )
Kristjan Järvi and Baltic Sea Philharmonic recording Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker
(Photo: Siiri Kumari / Sunbeam Productions)
Christmas for many people is epitomised by Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker. For all the work's ubiquity (and its terrific tunes), as a dramatic ballet The Nutcracker is somewhat unsatisfactory. The original production, in St Petersburg in 1892 (with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov) was not a success. 

Since the ballet's debut, countless choreographers and dramaturgs have worked on the complete ballet to give it a more satisfying form, frustrated that Tchaikovsky's final ballet should be coupled with such an unsatisfactory dramatic structure. The ubiquity of the ballet at Christmas is very much a post-war phenomenon. The first complete performance of The Nutcracker ballet outside Russia did not take place until 1934 when Ninette de Valois invited Nicholas Sergeyev to stage it in England. 

Before the work's premiere, Tchaikovsky had extracted a suite for orchestra, and this was an instant success, and in this orchestral guise, The Nutcracker remains immediately recognisable as one of the composer's best-known and most-travelled works.

Having released his own symphonic versions of Tchaikovsky's other two ballets, Kristjan Järvi and the young players of his Baltic Sea Philharmonic Orchestra have just released a disc devoted to The Nutcracker. Järvi has created a dramatic symphony from the ballet. Rather than simply presenting a suite of the well-known music, he wanted to give these musical bonbons a greater degree of context and to show that there is other fine music in the ballet. He comments, "When creating this Dramatic Symphony version, I didn’t make musical choices according to the popularity of certain movements. Instead, my choices were based on what material and movements I thought would be most interesting and riveting to listen to in sequence. I wanted music that would hold the listener’s attention throughout, so I reorchestrated and rewrote some elements, and created new transitions"

The orchestra's live concerts are usually dramatic events, with the players often playing from memory and the music accompanied by lighting and dramatic staging. The recording took place in Tallinn in September 2022, following the orchestra's tour of Germany and Estonia, and the atmosphere of a live concert was recreated in Estonian Public Broadcasting Studio 1. With no music stands, the musicians were mostly standing up, spread out and not in their sections, free to move and even dance to the music. Gertrud Leopard, an Estonian percussionist in the orchestra who was familiar with the studio in Tallinn, having recorded there twice before, says: "Recording from memory is a unique experience for me. It means I can focus more on the music, without having to concentrate on the score. With the special atmosphere in the studio, it really feels like we are performing, and we are building a unique connection within the orchestra."

Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic's Nutcracker: A Dramatic Symphony is released on Sony Classical [see link tree], the orchestra's fourth disc on the label following The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure (2016), Stravinsky and Glass Violin Concertos (2020) and Sleeping Beauty (2020).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month