Ballet's Christmas Crackers; Everybody Knows That Christmas Just Isn't the Same without the Nutcracker. but What Is It about Ballet, and in Particular the Ballets Scored by Russians, That Make Them So Synonymous with Christmas? GAVIN ALLEN Collars Classical Music Scholar Peter Reynolds to Find out Why
Byline: GAVIN ALLEN
"MOST of what we think of as Christmas ballets are not Christmas ballets at all," says classical music mind Peter Reynolds, building up to an exception.
"Most of these ballets can be performed at any time of the year but the Nutcracker is different because it's set on Christmas Eve and it is specifically all about the magic of Christmas.
"It's the 19th century equivalent of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
"When people get into this mode at Christmas they get out all the old songs and films and they never get tired of them. The Nutcracker is one of the things people do."
For Reynolds, pictured right, a lecturer at Royal Welsh College Of Music and Drama in Cardiff and the curator of the Lower Machen Festival, asking why the Nutcracker is being performed again this Christmas is like asking why Jingle Bells is still popular.
"The very first record my parents bought me when I was six was a 12 inch vinyl of the Nutcracker score so it's been with me a very long time," says Reynolds.
That little piece of childhood nostalgia holds the key to Nutcracker's enduring appeal; the Tchaikovsky score, with all it's Russian romanticism and drama, is magnificent.
So once again for Christmas, sent from Russia with love, comes the Kiev Classical Ballet with three ballets to run across the Christmas period at St David's Hall in Cardiff, two of which were composed by Russians.
"Russians have a love affair with ballet because they have always had this strong ballet dancing tradition," explains Reynolds.
"Russian classical music developed quite late, about 150 years ago, so it developed more or less hand in hand with ballet and it became their composers' tradition too."
The corner stones of Russian ballet composition are Tchaikovsky's three ballets, of which only Sleeping Beauty isn't being performed by Kiev in Cardiff.
"Among classical ballet scores, they don't come much better," asserts Reynolds. "Tchaikovsky's ballet compositions sit very high in his body of work and that's not always the case with great composers' ballets.
"The Nutcracker was written near the end of his life - he died fairly young at 53 and he wrote it when he was 50 or 51 - so it's a very mature piece from a composer firing on all cylinders. …