A ravishing pairing of two of Russian music’s emblematic scores: the dreamlike microcosm of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and the virtuoso, lyrical, epic and nostalgic odyssey of Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto.
The Nutcracker, king of ballets, is based on Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of Hoffmann’s famous tale. In 1891, Tchaikovsky began composing music for this Christmas fable, which deals with the passage from childhood to adolescence. As with Sleeping Beauty, he deployed his full powers of melodic ease and sense of orchestral spice for the miniature world of wooden soldiers and dolls making up this fairy tale.
As its partner in this diptych, only the king of concertos would do: thus, Rachmaninov's Third, certainly one of the most demanding in the repertoire, which the film Shine (1993) propelled to a new level of fame. Intended for an American audience and brimming with spectacular effects, this monumental score includes at its foundation, as always with Rachmaninov, Russian folk material, as its famous opening melody, so simple and magnetic, which is venerated in Russia as ‘an icon of Saint Sergei’, to quote the novelist Dominique Fernandez.