Friday, December 22, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Annotated List Week 4

I'm a regular contributor to the #ClassicsaDay Twitter feed. In December 2017, I focused on the music of the season that doesn't get a lot of exposure -- but should. Below is an annotated list of the works I featured in the feed with the supporting hashtag #ClassicalChristmas.

Arnold Bax (1883-1953) - Christmas Eve: Symphonic Poem

British composer Arnold Bax spent the winter of 1911 in Dublin. The inspiration for this 1912 work was a walk in the Dublin mountains at Christmas time. Bax later wrote that he hoped to evoke the "harp light of the frosty stars and ecstasy of peace falling for one night of the year upon the troubled Irish hills." The original title of the piece was "Christmas Eve in the Mountains." Bax shortened the title when he revised the work in the late 1930s.


Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901) - Der Stern von Bethlehem

Organist and composer Joseph Rheinberger spent most of his professional career in Germany. Although most remembered today for his challenging organ works, Rheinberger wrote in all genres, including operas, symphonies, string quartets, and choral compositions. Rheinberger completed his Christmas cantata Der Sern von Bethlehem (the Star of Bethlehem) in 1891. The cantata's subject is the shepherds' visit to the manger, guided by the star of Bethlehem.

Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682)- Cantata per Il Santissimo Natale

Stradlla enjoyed a successful career as a free-lance composer. This was an exceptionally rare occurrence in the mid-1600s. He's credited with over 300 compositions in a variety of genres. His Cantata per Il Santissimo Natale is one of over 170 cantatas he wrote.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)- Saint Nicolas, Op. 42

Tradition has morphed St. Nicolas into Santa Claus. But the Bishop of Myra (in Turkey) was an actual figure in the early church. When he was named a saint, December 6th became his feast day. Britten's work is concerned with the legend of St. Nicolas, outlining his life and various miracles he's credited with. Britten completed the work in 1948. Its stripped-down orchestration makes it an appealing work to perform.

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) - L'enfance du christ, Op. 25

Berlioz based his oratorio on a part of the Christmas story not often emphasized. After Christ's birth, King Herod, order the massacre of all male children under age three. He hoped this Slaughter of the Innocents (as it's known) would ensure the Messiah would be stopped. Joseph and Mary escaped with Jesus to Egypt, thus avoiding the massacre. Berlioz completed the work in 1854 and considered the oratorio a trilogy of three smaller cantatas: Herod ordering the slaughter, the Holy Family setting out for Egypt, and their arrival and reception in Egypt.

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) - Oratorio de Noël, Op. 12

Saint-Saëns wrote his Christmas Oratorio while serving as the organist at La Madeleine Church in Paris. He completed it in about two weeks time. He delivered the score 10 days before its premiere on Christmas Eve, 1858. Unlike many oratorios of the season, Saint-Saëns' is mostly quiet and introspective. It uses the choir sparingly. The first air is for solo soprano, the second for soprano and baritone. The next three airs each add a voice, culminating in a vocal quintet leading into the final chorus.

#ClassicalChristmas Annotated List Week #1
#ClassicalChristmas Annotated List Week #2
#ClassicalChristmas Annotated List Week #3

No comments:

Post a Comment