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.
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
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 " .
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.