How Duo Symphonious Fell in Love with a 120-year-old Russian
Every music fan knows that The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of a ballet, has been around the block a few times. Its melodies, hummable to all, feel like an old blanket—cozy and familiar for many, perhaps a little worn out for others.
I have a confession: I didn’t even know most of those melodies came from The Nutcracker until I studied the work as a composer at the San Francisco Conservatory. For me, it was a revelation, and I fell instantly, deeply in love. When Zac suggested we try arranging the music for two guitars, I practically jumped out of my chair to get started.
We soon found that when you distill a monumental work of 80 or 90 instruments down to a mere two, strange and miraculous things occur. There's no room for anything more than the true essence of the work, so you have to pare all that beauty into its simplest form.
As an orchestra becomes two guitars, new colors emerge; personalities are transformed. We found a tinge of bluegrass in the Chinese Dance, Latin overtones in the stately 'Waltz of the Flowers,' even some heavy metal in 'Mother Goose of the Clowns,' of all places. It's still Tchaikovsky, without a doubt. But it's also something else entirely. Whether the old blanket feels worn in or worn out to you, we hope The Portable Nutcracker lets you hear this amazing work with fresh ears.