, E.L. Lancaster, holiday piano arrangements, holiday piano music, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, piano pedagogy, The Nutcracker Suite

A winning collection of Nutcracker selections arranged for piano!

An inquiry at the Facebook Art of Piano Pedagogy forum drew my immediate attention. A supermom pianist/teacher and mentor to her grandson, was eager to feast the youngster on Nutcracker delights and wanted some guidance. She had noted the child’s enthusiasm to notch himself into a challenging musical arena, so why not recommend a colorful potpourri of holiday arrangements produced by Gayle Kowalchyk and E.L. Lancaster, Alfred Publisher. (Designated for “Intermediate to late Intermediate Pianists.”)

The Nutcracker Kowalchyk Lancaster

Three samples from this collection of 8 compositions, I found particularly delightful:

“March” captures Tchaikovsky’s colorful orchestration in its opening choir of voices–just the right range in its showy TRIPLETs display! In addition, the selection has significant pedagogical value in the arena of supple wrist development and staccato technique. (A lovely light interlude is perfectly delightful) Add in an exploration of dynamic contrasts and a teacher can be pleased to top the menu with this holiday serving.

“Dance of the Reed Flutes,” is equally charming, particularly in its mid-section transition to F# minor. The rhythms are captivating, while a forward flexible, wrist motion is well applied here.

“Russian Dance,” in vitality alone, is a show-stopper, wooing most students to practice by increments to completion. It’s popularity is an instant springboard to learning, though it clearly falls into the “LATE INTERMEDIATE” level category.

The balance of pieces, “Miniature Overture,” “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” “Arabian Dance,”(Definitely Intermediate level); “Chinese Dance” (needed inserted trills), and “Waltz of the Flowers” are nicely flavored musical desserts that should arrive just in time for Christmas, so why not indulge your students!

DISCLAIMER: While I’m not usually a partisan of ARRANGEMENTS re: the Classics, I’m a tad more tolerant of orchestral music transcribed to piano, that is, if it’s done artfully.

But were I to consider Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” transposed and reduced to one page, I would not embrace such a journey.

Enough said,
Happy Holidays, and Enjoy the Music!


8 thoughts on “A winning collection of Nutcracker selections arranged for piano!”

  1. Love your blog! I’m a pianist and teacher as well and frequently have advanced students study and perform selections from Tchaikovsky’s own original piano transcription of the Nutcracker Suite. However, I picked up this collection last month for my daughter (11) who dearly wanted to study the “Waltz of the Flowers” but is not ready for the length and difficulty of Tchaikovsky’s transcription. She’s loving it so far and is doing very well–and I’m happy to have a high-quality arrangement of this beloved seasonal work that some of my intermediate students can enjoy.


    1. Thanks for sharing, Jana.. I now recall Argerich and I think, Freire having recorded Nutcracker for two pianos, I believe. Indeed, a stretch for most students. Glad to hear your daughter is enjoying “Waltz of the Flowers.” (nice arrangement) I’m going to sit down and learn tomorrow. SK


  2. Thanks for posting this Nutcracker ‘arrangement’ book. I will look into it. I feel exactly the same way. Artfully done orchestral and also opera works can be a wonderful addition to an intermediate students journey, but not piano pieces reduced to almost nothing.

    I have two books I would like to share with you. One is “Scenes From The Nutcracker” by Bernadine Johnson. This is a called a Christmas Suite Series published by Alfred. There are only three selections, but all are excellent and in the original keys that are played in orchestra.

    Also I found an opera book that is a gem I would like to share. It is called “Opera at the Piano” with 74 selections from 44 operas transcribed for intermediate to advanced piano solo. I have played them to ‘our’ great delight with my daughter at an assisted living place where my Mom lived. She would play the melody on the flute and improvise, while I played on a decent digital piano. I have also have had several older students play them with great satisfaction as solo works as well.

    However the seniors were mostly unmoved, you know how that goes….this follows your blog about the retirement home circuit! I have had the same experience….music mostly fell on deaf ears…and only maybe one or two enjoyed it….most of them only want Tennessee Waltz and are not really interested in watching someone play the piano…

    Happy Holidays to you and yours! Regards, Fran


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