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Why did Tchaikovsky use the celesta in Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy?

I am just wondering why Tchaikovsky chose to use the celesta in The Nutcracker. I know that he went to great lengths to acquire the instrument. Why? Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Monica Gehrke
15/03/2013 23:10

There is no special reason why he chose the celeste as an instrument for The Nutcracker and specifically for the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy...Tchaikovsky visited Paris in 1891, the same year he began writing The Nutcracker, while there he discovered this instrument..a new instrument on the market....the composer was so struck by its colorful charming sound that he decided to use it in the ballet as well as another orchestral piece.."The Voevoda"...he asked his publisher Jurgenson to acquire the instrument as it could be used in the opening of the ballet and all future performances as well.....and so it went....the composer was merely intrigued by the unique sound of the instrument and thought it would add an extra touch of color to his piece..I hope this answers your question, Monica...

Best Wishes,

Albert Gasparo
29/03/2013 16:52


For reference;

Tchaikovsky used a glockenspiel for Christmas tree is growing immensely at the scene in the first act ( #6 Scene )

Celesta is able to play " higher " range than glockenspiel, and three or more notes at the same time.

The name of celesta means " heavenly " .

It is suited to the character of la Fee Dragee.

Incidentally, " dragee " is exactly " sugar-coated nut " , not " sugar-plum " .

Best regards.

Kamomeno Iwao
30/03/2013 12:32

I'd like to suggest that one reason Tchaikovsky was so taken by the celesta might be that it fully realized a sound already in his sonic imagination. Listen to the trio of the Marche miniature from the First Orchestral Suite (1878-79), and you will hear an astonishing evocation of celesta sonorities in a piece written about a decade before this instrument was invented.

Incidentally, Tchaikovsky is often credited with introducing the celesta to the classical soundscape. However, Ernest Chausson was probably the first to use it, in his little-known incidental music to a production of Shakespeare's Tempest, written in 1888 (four years before PIT completed The Nutcracker). Nevertheless, Tchaikovsky's piece is the one that made the difference, so he can rightly be credited with giving the celesta its first major exposure. As with Columbus, this was the "discovery" that made all the difference.

Marvin Hightower
16/06/2013 09:09

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