Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2014 - Featured Playlist (NML): The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

And so this is Christmas. For no other holiday is music such a central part of celebrations both sacred and secular for so many people. Naxos Music Library includes a wide array of Christmas music to accompany your holiday observances, and we’ve included in this playlist an assortment to help guide you. After all, sharing music is the best way to spread Christmas cheer!

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.

 1. John Jacob Niles – I Wonder As I Wander – Niles composed this tune after hearing a young girl in Appalachian North Carolina sing a brief fragment of melody at a fundraising meeting. He took these bits of tune and developed them into one of the more haunting and lovely holiday folk songs widely heard today.

2. Bernard de la Monnoye – Patapan – Patapan was originally written in the Burgundian dialect and published in 1720, and it tells of shepherds playing flutes and drums in celebration of Christmas. The version included here is performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the New York Philharmonic, with Leonard Bernstein conducting.

3. Raymond Scott – The Toy Trumpet – Known best for its use at the end of the 1938 film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm starring Shirley Temple, “The Toy Trumpet” has become a popular holiday and pops tune. Fun fact about the film: Temple learned to play the drums for a scene, but her mother protested, saying that the posture needed to play drums was “unladylike”. The scene was ultimately cut from the film.

4. Traditional – The Enniscorthy Christmas Carol – Known from at least the mid-19th century, this folk carol is from County Wexford in southeastern Ireland. This recording is taken from a gorgeous collection of Wexford carols released this year by Irish singer Caitríona O'Leary, with guest vocals by Roseanne Cash, Tom Jones, and Rhiannon Giddens.

5. Camille Saint-Saëns – Oratorio de Noël, Op. 12: Air: Domine, ego credidi - Saint-Saëns, 23 years old at the time, knocked out his Christmas Oratorio in less than two weeks, allowing a full ten days before the work was premiered on Christmas Day 1858. This beautifully stirring passage is scored for tenor, choir, organ, and strings.

6. Benjamin Britten – A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: Balulalow – Britten’s partner Peter Pears described A Ceremony of Carols as “a ceremony of innocence, a musical representation of life before the fall.” Indeed, a profound sense of purity and wonder can be heard in this work, which Britten composed for treble choir and harp.

7. Johann Sebastian Bach – Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248: Part II, Aria: Schlafe, mein Liebster, genieße der Ruh' – Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was originally composed to be performed across six church feast days of the Christmas season. While not as widely known as Handel’s Messiah, which was composed seven years later, this work is equally rich and even grander in scale, and has earned its own solid place in today’s sacred Christmas celebrations.

8. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov – Christmas Eve Suite: VII. Polonaise – A witch, the devil, a bunch of people tied up in sacks, all under a moonless and starless December sky… Such is the subject matter of the story upon which Rimsky-Korsakov based his opera Christmas Eve. Festive, right? Luckily, the score is full of Rimsky-Korsakov’s characteristically colorful orchestration, and this polonaise is a highlight of the suite derived from the opera.

9. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – 3 German Dances, K. 605: No. 3 in C major, “Die Schlittenfahrt” – Mozart is well known for having a playful side, to the point of sometimes being crass (at least according to societal and musical mores of the day). “Die Schlittenfahrt” (Sleigh Ride) is one example of his playfulness, as he makes use of tuned sleigh bells, something that may well have startled a more buttoned-up, proper society.

10. Franz Xavier Gruber – Stille Nacht – Franz Gruber was a German schoolteacher who worked a second job as organist and choirmaster at a local church. On Christmas Eve 1818, Joseph Mohr, a Catholic priest, brought him the lyrics to set to music, but the organ was broken down. As a result, the first performance was carried out the next day using a guitar for accompaniment.

11. Adolphe Adam – Cantique de Noël (O Holy Night) – Poet (and wine merchant!) Placide Cappeau was commissioned to write the lyrics to this sacred carol, a task he accepted despite being an atheist himself. The song, composed by Adolphe Adam, was first performed in 1847 by an opera singer, so it only seemed right to select here a rendition by Plácido Domingo. It’s certainly a melody made for a big voice.

12. Katherine Kennicott Davis – The Little Drummer Boy – Written in 1941, this Christmas class began to receive wide attention when it was recorded fourteen years later by the Trapp Family Singers (yes, those Trapp Family Singers) as “Carol of the Drum”. It became a big hit in 1958 for Harry Simeone, who gave the song its current title and claimed writer’s royalties for his arrangement.

13. Traditional – Fum Fum Fum – This carol originated in Catalonia and likely dates from the 16th or 17th century. There is no consensus about the meaning of “fum” in this context; the word is Catalan for “smoke”, but it has also been described as the sound of a drum or guitar, or as the act of playing the fiddle.

14. Kirk Elliott – Nutcracker Nouveau (after Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker): V. Sugar Plum Fairy – Ensemble Polaris put their unique spin on Tchaikovsky’s Christmas fixture, blending classical with folk, roots, klezmer, bluegrass, and a little bit of everything else. Using instruments such as clarinet, mandolin, and cello, they have created here a whimsical reimagining worth hearing.

15. Mykola Leontovych – Carol of the Bells – Leontovych wrote this melody in 1904 and based it on a Ukrainian chant. His original lyrics were regarding the coming of the new year, which in his day and culture was celebrated in April. American Peter Wilhousky wrote the English lyrics in the 1930s, adapting them to apply to Christmas and the Gregorian new year.

16. Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Phil Spector – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – This tune was originally written for Spector’s wife Ronnie, but her lackluster performance necessitated giving the song instead to Darlene Love, who made it a holiday classic. This version, performed by Death Cab for Cutie, is taken from a compilation that also features Pedro the Lion, Copeland, and more.

17. Irving Berlin – White Christmas – Outside of, you know, Jesus, Mary, and Santa Claus, there’s no figure who’s become more synonymous with Christmas than Bing Crosby. Okay, so that’s a bit hyperbolic, but no holiday playlist is truly complete without ol’ Bing singing “White Christmas”. It’s the best-selling single of all time, too, and by quite a bit; at over 50 million copies sold, its competition so far is Elton John’s decidedly un-festive “Candle in the Wind”, a long shot with 33 million.

18. Bob Wells, Mel Tormé – The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – This song was started by Bob Wells when he tried to combat a blazing hot summer by listing things that made him think of cold weather. Mel Tormé took that list and forty minutes later had the song that would go on to be the most performed Christmas tune of all time. The version here is sung by Tony Bennett.

19. Hugh Martin – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – This song was written in 1944 for the film Meet Me in St. Louis, where it was performed by none other than Judy Garland. Thirteen years later Frank Sinatra asked Martin to “jolly up” the lyrics for him, and the original line “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” was replaced with “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

20. Traditional – We Wish You a Merry Christmas – This song originates from sixteenth-century England. Carolers would often be given treats by the wealthy on Christmas Eve, hence the lyrics about figgy pudding (similar to the traditional English Christmas pudding). The version here is performed by the United States Navy Band and Sea Chanters Chorus.

Oh, and there’s a bonus track, but you’ll have to go to the playlist to find it. It’s only one of the greatest pieces ever composed, updated on a grander scale by one of the greatest composers who ever lived. No big deal, right?

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.5 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!

No comments:

Post a Comment