Oddly, I cannot conceive of the Christmas Season without The Nutcracker, and yet to this day, I have never attended a live performance of the ballet. This is something I very much need to correct one of these years! But I was fortunate to play principal trumpet in my college orchestra for four years, each one of which saw The Nutcracker Suite on our Christmas program. Few pieces of music transport me to a specific time and place, but The Nutcracker Suite to me is always brightly-lit rehearsal halls as another icy Iowa winter revs up outside through those tall windows, with Maestro Janice Wade leading the orchestra (and always, always, always yelling at us for trying to slow down, in spite of the complete lack of instruction to do so in the score, at the end of the “Waltz of the Flowers.”
Anyhow, I’ll give you two options here! If you have time, give the entire ballet a listen! I’m always of the belief that given the choice between hearing the entire work and hearing extracts, one should hear the entire work. But if you don’t have time, the Suite is perfectly acceptable. Here are both: the whole thing, and the Suite.