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The third and last of Tchaikovsky's great ballets was Nutcracker, first staged in St Petersburg on 18th December 1892. At first he found no particular attraction in the subject of The Nutcracker and the Mouse-king, based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the first performance was, in any case, coolly received. It has since become one of the most popular of all ballets, a particular favourite at Christmas. The story opens with a Christmas party, where, as sometimes happens at parties, Clara and her brother Franz become quarrelsome and refractory when they are not allowed to take their presents, a doll and a toy solider respectively, from the room. To pacify them the mysterious Drosselmeyer, who had brought them these presents, gives the children a nutcracker, which Franz breaks, when he tries to open a nut that is too big. Clara sadly takes the nutcracker and puts it to bed with her new doll. What follows is Clara's dream. She seems to see, in the night, a battle between toy soldiers, led by the Nutcracker, and the mice under their king, the latter eventually routed. The Nutcracker, transformed into a handsome prince, takes Clara away with him to the land of the Snow-King and Snow-Queen and then, led by the Sugar Plum Fairy, to the Kingdom of Sweets.
A novel by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky | Read by Prunella Scales | NAXOS
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky must be regarded as the most popular of all Russian composers, with his attractive melodies, rich orchestral colours and much more. Born in 1840, the second son of a mining engineer, Tchaikovsky had his early education, in music as in everything else, at home, under the care of his mother and of a beloved governess. He was one of the earliest students of the St Petersburg Conservatory established by Anton Rubinstein. On completing his studies he became a member of the teaching staff of a similar institution in Moscow, continuing there for some ten years, before financial assistance from a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, enabled him to leave the Conservatory and devote himself entirely to composition. He died in 1893.