A Klezmer Nutcracker: Three Orchestral Miniatures
Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, arr. by Steve Cohen
Duration: 5 minutes
Personnel: Picc., 2 Fls., 2 Obs., Eng. Hn. (ad-lib.), 2 Cls., Bass Cl. (ad-lib.), 2 Bsns. 4 Hns., 3 Tpts., 3 Tbns., Tuba, Timp., Perc. (2), Banjo, [or Gtr.] (ad-lib.), Pno., Elec. Bs. (ad-lib.), Drum Set, Harp, Strings.
(Click on links below to sample audio clips)
I. Tanz fun der Tsuker-Floym Feheh (adapted from “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy”)
II. Arabische Khupa-Tanz (adapted from “Arabian Dance”)
III. Freylakh (adapted from “Trepak’)
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“A Klezmer Nutcracker”…by far the most engaging work of the entire program, twisted three movements of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” into a nod to the Jewish musical traditions in a sort of “Fiddler on the Roof” meets Santa Claus - minor key slipping in where the major key would naturally fit, and a very sweet solo violin by Concertmaster Sam Fischer and tuba played by principal Scott Sutherland.
— Sherli Leonard; The Press Enterprise, 24 November 2014
“Latecomers rushed to their seats between the numbers, just in time for a specially commissioned Steve Cohen masterpiece–‘A Klezmer Nutcracker: Three Miniatures for Orchestra.’ Growing up, my favorite version of the holiday classic, ‘Nutcracker,’ was from the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as interpretation in classical music when I was 10, but knew that felt right to me–pacing, dynamic, build—everything. When I heard Cohen’s arrangement, I had the same feeling of ‘right!’ The miniatures included Klezmerized versions of ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,’ ‘Arabian Dance,’ and ‘Trepak,’ and held the audience rapt from the opening notes. Students of Carnegie’s history recall that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted the first concert held there in 1891, which happened during the time he was writing ‘The Nutcracker.’ History has come full oval, as no one could call that peregrination a circle!”
— Sheri Rase; Q-onStage, 19 December 2011
“There were many gems that were embraced by the audience such as Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker performed as a Klezmer piece brilliantly arranged by Steve Cohen.”
— Ken Conn; Times Square Chronicles 19 December 2011
“When Maestro Reineke greeted the merry holiday crowd he explained: “It is the most wonderful time of the year. And I’m happy to come out and celebrate the holidays with all of you. As usual, we’re also celebrating the beautiful Festival of Lights—Chanukah. As well, this year happens to be one where we’re honoring the music of Tchaikovsky, who also happened to have conducted the opening night concert at Carnegie Hall in 1891. In light of that, we’ve prepared for you a special treat: A Klezmer Nutcracker.” And what followed—Steve Cohen’s ingenious arrangement of three movements of the Tchaikovsky masterpiece, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Arabian, and Trepak—was just that. A tuba hit the high tones. Violins bowed in a minor key. And the oboes and clarinets played the melody. When the applause died down, Mr. Reineke added: ‘Boy, I wonder what Tchaikovsky would’ve said about that!’”
— Stewart Schulman; TheaterScene.net 1 January 2012