Mikhail Pletnev once recorded a sensational piano transcription of the Nutcracker suite. His traversal of the entire ballet isn’t quite in that class. Tchaikovsky’s score has more glamour, charm and sheer magic than almost any other music, ballet or otherwise. I suppose its nearest rival would be his own Sleeping Beauty.
I’ve never really heard a bad Nutcracker but I doubt this reading surpasses the two wonderful Doratis or my own favourite: André Previn with the LSO (EMI). It’s unfortunate Ondine couldn’t have filled the first CD and found something else to fill the second, as both have less than 50 minutes of playing time.
Sometimes the orchestra sounds rather flatly recorded, especially the brass. The traditional highlights, such as the Waltz of the Flowers and the dancing snowflakes, remain somewhat earthbound.
The pistol shot at the start of the mouse battle sounds like a popgun and the castanets in the Spanish dance are poorly captured: they’re barely there. I always judge the performance by the Arabian dance – if the sinuous sensuality is there, the rest will usually take care of itself. Well, it’s not… Look, there’s nothing catastrophically wrong with this version, but you can do better with any of the others suggested above.