Simon Rattle recorded Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's festive ballet the Nutcracker in 2009 with the Berlin Philharmonic, and this highlights album gives a generous sampling of the beloved holiday favorite. Rattle's approach is warm and inviting, and the music is played with brilliant flair and playful buoyancy. A late-comer to appreciating other works by Tchaikovsky, Rattle claims he always had a special affection for the ballets, and found the Nutcracker especially interesting when he learned of its influence on Igor Stravinsky's Petrushka. This is not to say that Rattle conducts this work in a revisionist or ironic manner, à la Stravinsky, for there is a richness here that is pure Tchaikovsky. Yet a case could be made that Rattle interprets the work with little sentimentality and with an ear for the piquant, and in that manner makes a connection between the two great Russian composers. The Berlin Philharmonic is exceptional in its radiant colors, full textures, and cohesive playing, and the Nutcracker is a delight with such a superb ensemble. EMI's reproduction is also deserving of praise, for the digital sound is as close to state-of-the-art as possible in a regular CD format, and the audio range is wide and deep, with every note easy to hear.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson