How the Sugar Plum Fairy inspired a secret race...

No, this is not a tortoise and a hare joke.  The Sugar Plum Fairy doesn't run an underground boxing ring or a fight club.  Rather the Sugar Plum Fairy has the illustrious distinction of being of such a light and bright personality that the MASTER orchestrator, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky couldn't decide how best to portray her musically.  He was perplexed by "the absolute impossibility of portraying the sugarplum fairy in music", but a heaven-sent solution was brewing in France.


Mustel had just invented a new instrument with the perfect sonority.  Bright and bell-like, and capable of extreme virtuosity (due to a piano-like keyboard).  With piano-style hammers and metal bars (like a Glockenspiel), the perfect instrument was born - the Celesta.  In 1891, when he passed through Paris on his way to New York to take part in the opening concerts at Carnegie Hall, he heard Victor Mustel's newly developed instrument, which intrigued him! As soon as he returned home from America, he had his publisher Pyotr Jorgensen order a celesta for use in the Nutcracker, swearing him to secrecy "lest Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov get wind of it and manage to make use of its unusual effect before I do."


At that time, the Nutcracker was nothing more than a collection of sketches.  In order to ensure that he was the first Russian composer to use the celesta, Tchaikovsky incorporated the instrument into the score of his tone poem "The Voyevoda", which he had not yet completed.  That work was completed in October of 1891 and premiered in November of the same year.  Tchaikovsky was so thoroughly dissatisfied with it that he ordered the score and all the parts burned at intermission!  The parts were luckily salvaged, and the piece was published 30 years after Tchaikovsky's death.  Despite the apparent flop, Tchaikovsky had won the race to get the Celesta on stage in Russia.

So, thanks to the Sugar Plum Fairy, secret orders and burned scores, the original (and still most famous) excerpt of music for the Celesta was composed, and shines on brightly to this very day.