Here are some little known facts about this famous Christmas classic by Tchaikovsky:
It was originally commissioned by Ivan Vsevolozhsky for the Imperial Theater, even though Tchaikovsky did not want to write it. Tchaikovsky actually detested this ballet while composing it and even after the premiere. He considered the ballet inferior to his previous one ("Sleeping Beauty"). I’ve always found that somewhat sad since The Nutcracker is considered to be one of his most famous works. While composing the music for the ballet, Tchaikovsky is said to have argued with a friend who wagered that the composer could not write a melody based on the notes of the octave in sequence. Tchaikovsky asked if it mattered whether the notes were in ascending or descending order, and was assured it did not. This resulted in the "Grand pas de deux" of the second act. It is also thought that the melancholy melody of the pas de deux is the result of his sister dying shortly before he began the composition. Other noteworthy aspects of the ballet include its prominent use of celesta, featured in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" of the second act. Below is a photo of Olga Preobrajenska as the Sugarplum Fairy and Nikolai Legat as Prince Coqueluche in the Grand pas de deux of the original production (St. Petersburg, c. 1900).