For dancers and dance audiences across the US and Europe, Nutcracker is an inextricable part of the Christmas season. In 2012, the Finnish National Ballet premiered Kenneth Greve’s new full-length The Snow Queen, which replaced Nutcracker as the company’s Christmas ballet for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Tuomas Kantelinen’s cinematic, magical score wraps up all the same tenderness, warmth, drama, and characterization that are so appealing in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. This disc contains a seventy-minute selection of music from the two-act ballet
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the same name, the ballet takes us from young Kerttu and Kai’s bedroom in Helsinki through the bustling market square. There are wild, glittering, blustery dances for the Snow Flakes, threateningly punctuated with percussion. Once Kai is carried off in the snowstorm, Kerttu’s search takes her through Sweden, Spain, Persia, and the Orient in an energetic series of pastiche “national” dances.
Kantelinen’s score is festive, illustrative, and emotional. The use of a particularly tender leitmotif that seems to represent the love between friends Kai and Kerttu winds its way through the music, showing up every now and then as if to comfort the listener that good will always triumph over evil. The whole CD is a real pleasure to listen to.
An interesting production note about the ballet is that though this score was designed specifically for Greve’s choreography, the ballet itself was not performed with live orchestral accompaniment. Instead, the stage was extended out over the pit and the cast danced to a recording.