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It is cold—very cold—and it’s just beginning.

Somehow that matters little in my warm study when enveloped within Winter Dreams, the subtitle of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1866) played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov. The first movement, fragile and effervescent, evokes inchoate scenes of what wasn’t there before: 

Moonlit snow-scapes—wind-startled frozen lakes—flocked mountain pines—brush-filled meadows—gust-sculpted cathedrals—critter-tracks meandering over hills—color-splashes angling down slopes and crisscrossing paths.

Beneath this frozen world, deep smiles thaw my imagination; trickles of water create wiggle-room for my breathing. Like the first morning of creation, Beauty still evokes deep joy and zest for living.

Listening to Winter Dreams plunges us within its critical cycle of brilliance. Color’s own brilliance will return, in time.

How often have little girls identified with Clara dancing in the arms of her Nutcracker King and later found themselves holding onto the barre in mirrored practice rooms, stretching and standing on point? They would become like Clara, moving effortlessly within storied ballets.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet (1892) is one of these; it is loosely based upon the Prussian Romantic E. T. A. Hoffman’s fairy tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The resulting two-hour production penetrates imaginations and transports audiences, worldwide, to clashes between good and evil.

The ballet opens with the Stahlbaums and their children, Fritz and Clara, welcoming guests to their Christmas Eve party. A late arrival, Clara’s godfather and village toy-maker, presents her with a hand-carved Nutcracker whose grim countenance was to protect her from evil and surround her with good. But in the children’s ensuing tussle with the Nutcracker, it gets broken, and Clara grieves the loss of her protector before falling asleep beneath the Christmas tree.

Within her larger-than-life dream, the bandaged Nutcracker in her arms, she enters worlds of darkness and light: the vanquishing of the seven-headed Mouse King and his army of mice, followed by the sleigh ride with the Nutcracker King to the Land of Sweets, filled with dancers from around the world.  

The composer’s discovery of the celesta, in Paris, adds a tinkling to the ballet’s score and seems to lighten the intricate steps of the dancers. Especially is this true of the Sugar Plum Fairy who moves like breeze-lilting streamers in a rose garden.

No wonder that The Nutcracker Ballet has become a Christmas tradition through the generations.

It is cold—very cold—and it is still winter.

Somehow that matters little in my warm study when enveloped within Winter Dreams, the subtitle of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1866) played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov. The first movement, fragile and effervescent, evokes inchoate scenes. Like hesitant sparrows, words surface—putting something out there that wasn’t there before: 

Moonlit snow-scapes—wind-startled frozen lakes—flocked mountain pines—brush-filled meadows—gust-sculpted cathedrals—critter-tracks meandering over hills—color-splashes angling down slopes and crisscrossing paths.

Beneath this frozen world, deep smiles thaw my imagination; trickles of water create wiggle-room for my breathing. Like the first morning of creation, Beauty still evokes such things through Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams.

Joy surfaces, again and again. We’ve only to receive it.

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