Classical Music for the Seasons Music for the Seasons    

Lesson 13: The Nutcracker Suite

by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Performer: European Archive


    Classical Music for the Seasons Music for the Seasons    

Lesson 13: The Nutcracker Suite

by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Performer: European Archive

Directions

Study the musical selection for one week.

Over the week:

  • Each day, listen to the musical selection.
  • Practice reciting the title of the composition and the composer's name.
  • Read the synopsis.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.

Synopsis

Giving to others, family gatherings, religious worship, trimming trees, special songs, eggnog, and mistletoe, the Christmas holiday involves comforting traditions for many. For the next four weeks, you'll listen to selections associated with the Christmas season. For those who celebrate Christmas, enjoy this music while baking Christmas cookies, hanging stockings, decorating your tree, or opening presents. The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a is a ballet written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892. It is performed by ballet companies across the United States during the Christmas season. A ballet is a dance that is performed to music and tells a story. The story of the Nutcracker ballet is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story 'The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.' In the story, a girl named Clara receives a Nutcracker from her uncle on Christmas Eve. That night, the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince. With the help of Clara, the prince defeats the Mouse King and his army of mice. Clara and the prince travel to the Land of Sweets and see magical dances and wondrous people and places.

Enrichment

Activity 1: Describe the Music

After listening to the music, describe and discuss what you heard.

Read the list of adjectives below. Select those that describe the music or think up additional adjectives.

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Quiet
  • Loud
  • Fast
  • Slow
  • Scary
  • Dreamy
  • Magical
  • Rhythmic
  • Dignified

Activity 2: Ballet Sketch

Examine the picture below and find the following items:

  • Ballerina
  • Ballerino (Male Ballet Dancer)
  • Dress
  • Tights
  • Ballet Shoes
  • Flowers
  • Pointed Toe
  • Wooden Floor
  • Framed Painting

One day this week, as you listen to the music, color, draw, or sketch ballet dancers like in the picture.

Activity 3: Nutcracker Sketch

Examine the picture below and find the following items:

  • Crown
  • Sword
  • Boots
  • Belt
  • Moustache
  • Teeth

One day this week, as you listen to the music, color, draw, or sketch the nutcracker shown below.

Activity 4: Nutcracker Dance

  • One day this week, as you listen to the music, pretend to be either Clara, the handsome Nutcracker prince, or the Mouse King and dance to the music.

Activity 5: Study the Painting

Examine the painting below while listening to the music.

  • Narrate the scene shown in the painting aloud using your own words.
  • Describe how the painting relates to the music.

Find the following items in the painting:

  • Christmas Tree
  • Christmas Tree Lights
  • Ornaments
  • Star Tree Topper
  • Children
  • Women
  • Circle
  • Shadows
  • Holding Hands
  • Pillar
  • Vase
  • Bust (sculpture of a person's head and shoulders.)

Activity 6: Identify the Movements

A 'movement' is a principal division of a longer musical work, self-sufficient in terms of key, tempo, and structure.

There are eight (8) movements in the core Nutcracker Suite performance. Listen for each and try to identify them (the listed times will help at first). The titles of each movement are listed below.

  • Overture (time 0.00)
  • March (time 3.00)
  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (time 5.00)
  • Russian Dance (time 6.40)
  • Coffee (Arab Dance) (time 7.43)
  • Tea (Chinese Dance) (time 11.35)
  • Dance of the Reed Flutes (time 12.45)
  • Waltz of the Flowers (time 15.05)

This recording includes additional music from first and second acts of the ballet.

  • The Christmas Tree (time 21.12)
  • Grandfather Dance (time 25.18)
  • Children's Gallop and Entrance of the Parents (time 28.28)
  • Pas de Deux Variations (time 29.50)
  • Waltz of the Snowflakes (time 34.02)
  • The Magic Castle in the Kingdom of Sweets (time 38.03)
  • Final Waltz and Apotheosis (time 42.50)

Review

Question 1

What is the title of the music?
1 / 4

Answer 1

The title is 'The Nutcracker Suite.'
1 / 4

Question 2

Who composed the music?
2 / 4

Answer 2

The composer is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
2 / 4

Question 3

What is 'The Nutcracker Suite' about?
3 / 4

Answer 3

'The Nutcracker Suite' tells of the adventures of a girl named Clara and her nutcracker, which transforms into a handsome prince.
3 / 4

Question 4

What is a ballet?
4 / 4

Answer 4

A ballet is a dance that is performed to music and tells a story.
4 / 4

  1. What is the title of the music? The title is 'The Nutcracker Suite.'
  2. Who composed the music? The composer is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
  3. What is 'The Nutcracker Suite' about? 'The Nutcracker Suite' tells of the adventures of a girl named Clara and her nutcracker, which transforms into a handsome prince.
  4. What is a ballet? A ballet is a dance that is performed to music and tells a story.

References

  1. 'The Nutcracker.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.