I don’t even regret how loose that pun is
Act I, No 6. Scene (Departure of Guests/Night)
Right so, as you recall from Part I, we are all very tired after that big party.
Clara’s lullaby for the nutcracker comes back in a new, more lush arrangement. Remember how the opening overture used the highest instruments and left out the bass, which entered with the parents? Same deal here as the adults all get tired and begin to leave the party. Clara’s lullaby is no longer in the high woodwinds, but in the full strings section with a nice boosting from the woodwinds and horns, plus a harp and a triangle because NIGHT MAGIC.
At 0:46 the melody is passed off to the English Horn (a cousin of the oboe) as the Stahlbaums start to send off final guests and send their children off to bed. Clara wants to take her nutcracker but is told no so she makes extra sure he’s comfy and then is sent away to bed. As this bedtime process is going on, we hear the melody get repeated in the clarinet, an even lower, mellower woodwind, and finally repeated down to the muted cellos and basses once Clara is good and “asleep”.The shimmering violins may suggest that all is not quite as peaceful as the melody suggests though
Jk, that comes later. It’s more like this right now!
At 2:21 the shimmering strings transition us into full night. A harp spills some musical moonlight onto the stage and sneaky lil Clara sneaks back onstage to check on her nutcracker. Honestly, given the psychopath of a brother she has, this is a pretty good idea.
Tchaikovsky writes all kinds “discoveries” into this movement by using a big harp
Now we hear the mouse/rat music for the first time at 3:13.
SIDEBAR: Are they mice or rats? They’re mice in the score, but a lot of productions call them rats. I don’t care, giant battle-rodents are upsetting either way. I am gonna call them rats in this post as per the initial bad joke I made in the title of this post.
Anyway, the rat music appears here because creepy clock-face Drosselmeyer is CALLING THEM OUT. The clock strikes midnight, and this is usually a good opportunity for a company to have 12 rats pop out all over the stage. SF Symphony has a very nice clock sound! Almost every recording is different and hey, look at that! There’s a Spotify playlist with a ton of recordings at the end of this post if you really want to try it out.
A sinister little duet between the bass clarinet and the bassoon with worried peeps from the piccolos. The cellos pick up the melody next and because of where the melody is written in their range, it really does sound like little scratching mice feet all over the room. Clara reasonably responds like this
All the mice decide they’ve given her a good enough scare and take off at the big climax (4:29).
At this point, the Christmas tree suddenly starts growing and Clara turns to look at it.
Because the Christmas tree is a little unusual and worrying, but not terribly…dangerous per
After the big essentially-on-stage set change, only the violins and high woodwinds trail off before a worrying shudder in the violins (and quite possibly the reentry of some mice) leads us to
Act I: No 7 The Battle
At 0:10, the dolls are startled and cry out in little woodwind turns, as the sentry wakes the rabbit drummers (necessary for
A magnificent Tamtam signals the opening of Toys vs Rats
At 1:25 after a big musical/battle climax, those rats get away with one of the gingerbread men/soldiers and EAT IT because they know what’s up.
The strings take over the melody as our musical allegiance switches fully over to the “good guys”. The Nutcracker Prince calls out more soldiers and cries “To arms!” which sounds better in the original French “Aux
When the basses and cellos play an aggressive-but-messy entrance at 1:44, the Rat King enters. In ETA Hoffman’s original story he has 7 heads but technically that’s not a requirement. The rats cheer wildly, as you can hear in those little “hurray, hurray, hurray, hurray”s in the high woodwinds (e.g. 1:47).
At 2:00, another
You know he’s good and dead because the brass and the strings take over and bring us back to