Rhinegold Photo credit: Andrew Mason
A new take on Tchaikovsky: Alexandra Dariescu

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Q&A: Alexandra Dariescu

8:00, 13th December 2017

Katy Wright finds out more about ‘The Nutcracker and I’ by Alexandra Dariescu,
a 50-minute live multimedia piece for piano soloist, ballerina and digital animation

Tell me about the project.
It’s a fantastic way to do a piano recital, and it’s something which has never been done before. I wanted to do something different which would incorporate technology and dance alongside the piano music in order to reach out to younger audiences and to try and get them to the concert hall.

Why did you choose The Nutcracker?
I wanted to choose something that would appeal to everyone, but bring it to a much more intimate setting. If someone were to go to the ballet, the performance would be in a big hall with lots of dancers and a big orchestra in a pit, whereas this is all about the detail. We’re doing it in a smaller hall so that the audience will be close to the performers and will get a sense of intimacy which would never be achieved with many ballet performances.

How does the project use Tchaikovsky’s music?
I chose 15 movements from the whole ballet, and I’m using the Pletnev arrangements as well as Stepan Esipoff and Percy Grainger. I commissioned Gavin Sutherland, music director of English National Ballet, to arrange three movements which have never been arranged before: the battle, the last waltz and the opening of act one. It’s really exciting to get some new commissions which will bind it all together. Not all of the movements are in the order they are in the ballet; I took inspiration from Pletnev, who chose the most famous bits and did them in whatever order he wanted. I thought, well, we’re recreating the story, but telling it from my perspective.

What do these arrangements bring to Tchaikovsky’s music?
The incredible thing about the piano arrangements is that they’re so virtuosic. The whole thing is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever played! They really bring the orchestral colours on to the piano. Of course, it makes it more difficult for me – I only have ten fingers and there are 60 or so people in the orchestra.

Why did you want to challenge the traditional concert format?
Over the last three or four years, I’ve given the final concerts for lots of concert societies across the country which have had to close their doors simply because audiences were dying and they couldn’t get any funding. I found that really sad. Everywhere in Europe the average age is higher than we’d like it to be.

I think kids should be encouraged along to concerts and to take up instruments; it’s so beneficial for their development. It’s very important to be a role model for the younger generation and to show that, through hard work and perseverance, you can live your dream, whatever that might be; that’s what I want to do with this production.

What can this performance bring that a full production of The Nutcracker wouldn’t?
It can be quite expensive to go to the ballet with two or three children. Prices for this production are much lower, so it’s more affordable for families; I think this is one of the reasons why the world premiere was sold out within 12 hours. We’re offering something which is a lot more intimate: the production can
be staged in smaller venues, so it can
tour easily.

Do you plan to create more similar projects?
This is definitely the first of many – I think it’s so exciting to do something new and innovative. I really hope people enjoy watching it as much as I have enjoyed creating it.

‘The Nutcracker and I’ by Alexandra Dariescu receives its premiere at Milton Court at 6pm and 8pm on 19 December. bit.ly/2vXweVr

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