The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Musical Score By: James Newton Howard

Distributed By: Walt Disney Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


               The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is the latest in a long line of fantasy adventures based upon ETA Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and Marius Petipa’s The Nutcracker.  In this version, set in Victorian London, we come upon Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) as she receives a Christmas present from her father (Matthew Macfadyen), fulfilling the dying wish of his wife (Anna Madeley).  Presented with an egg-shaped box she is unable to unlock and a note stating that the inside of the egg is all she will ever need, Clara is confused, but her godfather Droseelmeyer (Morgan Freeman) presents her with a gift that will help her unlock a fantastical world and an adventure that will take her far and wide before she discovers the real mystery behind her mother’s present.

               The musical score of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was created by American composer, conductor and producer James Newton Howard.  Coming from a musical family, it was no secret that James Newton Howard would eventually follow in their footsteps.  Learning classical piano at the age of four, he would go on to attend a number of performing arts schools before dropping out to pursue a career in music, performing with a short-lived rock band before becoming a session musician, playing with such artists as Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and Elton John.  He began his foray into film scoring in the mid-80s and has gone on to create musical score for such popular films as Pretty Woman, The Fugitive, The Devil's Advocate, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Hunger Games series, The Sixth Sense, I Am Legend, Salt, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and more.

               In creating the musical score for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, James Newton Howard built on iconic themes from Tchaikovsky’s 1892 Nutcracker ballet score.  According to Howard, “Tchaikovsky was one of the great melody writers of all time.  The colors of 'The Nutcracker' ballet score have become a part of the vocabulary of film music. It's where so much of the 19th-century romantic music that I call upon as a film composer is rooted.”  Performed by The Philharmonic Orchestra in London, led by conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the score brings me back to my youth and wonder at seeing Mikhail Baryshnikov perform in a televised version of The Nutcracker when I was a child.

               Huge orchestral pieces with woodwinds, strings and percussion introduce us to a world larger than life.  Tinkling bells, celeste, choral pieces and beautifully dramatic piano pieces performed by Lang Lang bring us the magic of this new world Clara finds herself in.  Faster paced score tells the tale of Clara’s journey to right the wrongs of this new mysterious and magical parallel world.  While the whole score of the movie is magical and awe-inspiring, my favorite track is The Nutcracker Suite which, once again, brings me back to my youth, but also instills upon me a new admiration for the ballet with Lang Lang’s beautiful piano performance.  The final song on The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Soundtrack is Fall on Me, a beautiful track about finding one’s self performed by Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo Bocelli.

               Intensely beautiful and traditional at times and fantastically awe-inspiring at others, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Soundtrack is a terrific listen for any music aficionado.  The hints of Tchaikovsky mixed with James Newton Howard’s own creations are awesome and I have no doubt the score enhances the visuals of this film.  The soundtrack is definitely well worth the listen!             


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