Time to get Christmassy, starting with some Baroque classics (1600s):
What better way to fling open the curtains on an oratorio than with a salvo on the drums and fanfares on trumpets? Bach in party mode here, with conductor JEG giving it plenty of ‘Schwung’. He’s good at that.
Corelli’s Christmas concerto has a special place for me as one of the first string orchestra pieces I conducted. This a generous doughnut of a movement, with some zesty jam in the middle.
I’m jumping ahead to the 19th and 20th centuries now.
The next three have a theme of bells, which I feel belong to a Christmas aural postcard. Big Ben chimes open Vierne’s organ piece and guide it through its slow build. Imagine this as you walk down the aisle of a cathedral, nodding to royalty. You have to have deft feet to play the last few lines.
Bizet is great at bright, brazen colours, and his bells sound as if they’re being rung by a particularly zealous set of parishioners, after some sherry. There’s a lovely tune in the middle before the bells come clanging back.
Prokofiev’s Troika is a winter classic and takes you to a place of deep snow, festive sleighs with their bells, fur mufflers and Russian folk song. Great film music.
Benjamin Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ combines some of his favourite colours: the treble voice and harp. He wrote it on a boat across the Atlantic in 1942, trying to shut out the fears of War. It’s such a British sound.
Jonathan Dove is currently 56, so Wiki tells me. He’s particularly good at writing for voice and his style borrows from Britten in places. I love the key shift at 2’30 and there’s great word-painting in the final third.
Ok, so this Wilcocks version of The Three Kings does sound a bit precious, as neat and starched as a choirboy’s ruff. But the arrangement is so beautiful and, in small doses, this sound can be as warming as a crackling open fire.