Tchaikovsky - Nutcracker - Act One - Pas de Deux #8 - Score Analysis and Discussion

The measure in question is a C Major chord, distributed in the following way:

C's are played by the following instruments:

flutes & piccolo
oboes & english horn
clarinets & bass clarinet
horn 4
trombone 3
harp 2
violins 1 & 2

E's are played by the following instruments:

horn 2
trombone 1

G's are played by the following instruments:

horns 1 & 3
trombone 2

So why did Tchaikovsky write an E for the timpani here when he could have easily written a C, since he was writing for three drums tuned to C, E, & G ??

Quite possibly to give a more even balance to the chord, since such a large proportion of the orchestra is playing the root, including all the bass instruments. Also, the piece isn't over yet, there are still 13 measures of coda left...

In fact, there is another less climactic cadence 8 bars later where C is written, but that chord is much more lightly orchestrated, leading on to the Waltz of the Snowflakes that concludes the first act. Also, there are no further harmonic changes after that final cadence until the beginning of the waltz.

So this is one of those situations where what you see on the page doesn't make sense in actual performance. Playing an E here just feels wrong to one's ears and one's instincts. When you find such a place in a work by a composer who was a master of orchestration, it is always fascinating to look at the score in detail and try and understand why he made the decisions he did.

Interesting that one of the scholars responsible for the new Critical Edition contacted me about this and told me they agreed with me and have changed it to a C.

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