Mikhail Pletnev / Russian National Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

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Fans of the Nutcracker Suite who are looking for more of the same type of music need look no further than the complete ballet, which contains almost four times as much music as the eight-movement suite. The suite includes much of the most striking music, but the entire ballet is a lovely, lyrical piece that should appeal to fans of graceful Romantic orchestral music. Mikhail Pletnev, leading the Russian National Orchestra and the Vesna Children's Choir, delivers an elegant account of the score. The orchestra plays with dazzling precision and a warm, round tone, and beautifully conveys the predominant mood of magical, gossamer delicacy. Although this is certainly music with which the orchestra is intimately familiar, there is nothing routine about their playing. Some of the more passionate moments, such as the first scene in the forest, don't quite summon the surging grandeur the music requires, but otherwise the piece moves with plenty of drama. It's in Pletnev's attention to details that the performance really stands out. The scintillating, jewel-like Overture sets the tone of the performers' alert, attentive approach to the ballet. The swirl of strings rising from the cellos to the violins' heights that punctuates the March really does seem to swirl around the listener's head. The use of a children's (rather than an adult) choir in the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" is especially effective. Ondine's sound is immaculate, full, and nicely detailed. Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra are veterans with Tchaikovsky; they have recorded the composer's two other ballets and the complete symphonies, so listeners looking for more have plenty to pursue.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Nutcracker, Op. 71
1
4:14
2
4:26
3
1:15
4
3:41
5
1:08
6
1:07
7
2:34
8
2:49
9
7:25
10
5:32
11
0:42
12
2:21
13
1:17
14
3:49
15
1:49
blue highlight denotes track pick