Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2007 by Fred Flaxman

Program 131
"A Classical Christmas"


MUSIC:
Traditional: opening of Joy to the World, performed by Arturo Delmoni and Alexander Romanul, violins, Katherine Murdock, viola, and Nathaniel Rosen, cello [John Marks Records JMR 12, track 1] [under the following]

Bringing joy to the world might be a bit ambitious a goal for Compact Discoveries but I hope to bring you an hour of joyful, unusual, classical Christmas music if you’ll do me the honor of staying tuned!

Hello, I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and the next hour will be devoted to “A Classical Christmas.” We’ll hear Sleigh Ride by Delius, A Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson, Wassail Dances by Philip Lane, an excerpt from Our Nativity by Ariel Ramirez, a Swedish carol, and some Christmas music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

MUSIC: fades out

Christmas has been a major inspiration to composers of music for hundreds of years. Most of it has been vocal and choral. The exceptions include seasonal 17th and 18th Century concerti grossi, and the 19th Century Santa Claus Symphony by the American composer William Henry Fry, which I featured in another Compact Discoveries hour.

According to the program notes by Philip Lane for the Naxos CD we are going to sample next, with the rise of public Christmas concerts -- which he calls “a useful source of finance for symphony orchestras throughout the world” -- more orchestral Christmas music has been created. He writes that the first substantial work based on Christmas carols came in the mid-1920s in the form of A Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson.

Hely-Hutchinson was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He was the youngest child of the last Governor of Cape Colony, and an infant prodigy. He was sent to school in England, where he studied composition from the age of eight. His later career took him to Eton, the Royal College of Music in London, Oxford, the South African Broadcasting Company, and finally the BBC, where he became Director of Music in 1944.

Lane writes that overwork and undernourishment due to stringent wartime rationing in England made him particularly vulnerable to infection, which was not helped by his own self-imposed rationed heating. He died two years after the end of World War Two at the age of 45.

Hely-Hutchinson’s A Carol Symphony is cast in the traditional four movements of the classical model, with the scherzo placed second. The whole work is designed to be played without a break. The only rests come between the first two movements. Each movement is based on a single carol, although the second and last do have subsidiary carols.

In this recording the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

MUSIC: Hely-Hutchinson: A Carol Symphony, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland [Naxos 8.557099, tracks 6-9] [24:42]

Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s A Carol Symphony, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

You are listening to “A Classical Christmas” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

Next let’s listen to another work from this same Naxos CD: Wassail Dances by the contemporary British composer Philip Lane. This piece is based on three traditional drinking songs frequently sung at Christmas time in the English counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire in the southwest and Yorkshire in the north.

MUSIC: Lane: Wassail Dances, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland [Naxos 8.557099, tracks 11-13]

Wassail Dances by the English composer Philip Lane. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

You are listening to “A Classical Christmas” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Let’s hear from an earlier British composer now, albeit an English composer who was born in Germany. I’m talking about Frederick Delius. 

When Delius was studying in Leipzig, he met Edward Grieg, who invited him to a party on Christmas Eve. At it Delius played a short piano piece called Norwegian Sleigh Ride. He later orchestrated the work, which was forgotten during his lifetime. It was revived by the English conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, in 1946 under the title Sleigh Ride. We hear that version now as performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hill on a London compact disc.

MUSIC: Delius: Sleigh Ride, performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hill [London 444 130-2, track 10] [6:25]

Frederick Delius’ Sleigh Ride, performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hill.

Now here’s some Christmas music which may be a compact discovery for you.

MUSIC: Ariel Ramirez: La Peregrinacion from Navidad Nuestra - Our Nativity, performed by Counterpoint directed by Robert De Cormier [Choral Excellence UPC 8 2489052022 2, track 2] [3:00]

La Peregrinacion from Navidad Nuestra - Our Nativity by Ariel Ramierez. The choral group Counterpoint was directed by Robert De Cormier.

One more piece now from the same album, which is called “A Counterpoint Christmas.” This is De Cormier’s arrangement of a Swedish Christmas carol called Ritsch, Ratsch, Filibom! with an exclamation point at the end.

MUSIC: Robert De Cormier directs his arrangement of the Swedish Christmas carol called Ritsch, Ratsch, Filibom! [Choral Excellence UPC 8 2489052022 2, track 7] [2:37]

Robert De Cormier conducted his arrangement of the Swedish Christmas carol, Ritsch, Ratsch, Filibom!

The Auréole Trio, which we’ll hear to conclude this hour, combines the sounds of the flute, viola and harp in a way that I find extremely pleasing, and I think you will to. They specialize in the music of the impressionists and the 20th Century. Here’s their beautiful version of Ave Maria, a work that combines Johann Sebastien Bach’s Prelude No. 1 from the Well-Tempered Clavier with a melody by Charles Gounod.

MUSIC: Gounod/Bach: Ave Maria performed by Auréole [KOCH 3-7559-2 HI, track 3] [2:52]

Ave Maria by Charles Gounod with a little help from J.S. Bach. You heard Laura Gilbert on flute, Mary Hammann on viola and Stacey Shames on harp. The Auréole Trio.

Wasn’t that lovely? Let’s hear them again, this time with a Christmas Dance and a Carol by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

MUSIC: Vaughan Williams: Christmas Dance performed by Auréole [KOCH 3-7559-2 HI, track 10] [2:17]

MUSIC: Vaughan Williams: Carol performed by Auréole [KOCH 3-7559-2 HI, track 11] [2:38]


This is Fred Flaxman and Compact Discoveries wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

This Compact Discoveries program is a presentation of WPVM, Asheville, North Carolina.

MUSIC and program ends at 58:00

 
  ©2007 Compact Discoveries