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Songs of the Season: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

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Some classical music with no obvious, overt connection to the holiday has nonetheless become associated with Christmas over the years—at least in the United States. Bach has a Christmas Oratorio, but his choral movement known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” also seems to have become something of a Christmas tune (as well as a popular piece for weddings).

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is the English title of the 10th movement of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. A transcription by the English pianist Myra Hess (1890–1965) was published in 1926 for piano solo and in 1934 for piano duet.[1] The British organist Peter Hurford made his organ transcription for the chorale movement as well. Today, it is often performed at wedding ceremonies slowly and reverently, in defiance of the effect suggested by Bach in his original scoring,[2] for voices with trumpet, oboes, strings, and continuo. Written during his first year in Leipzig, Germany, this chorale movement is one of Bach’s most enduring works. (via Wikipedia.)

It is, or at least can be, stately, beautiful, serious but also full of joy. You can see why people like it for occasions such as weddings and Christmas. The Windham Hill version is pretty much my favorite version as a “holiday” song:

David Qualey, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” – from A Winter’s Solstice

The numerous other versions available can vary greatly in appeal:

Sarah Brightman also included a version on her album, A Winter Symphony.

For more…

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Reality aims to please

Barefoot people walking through a field holding clarinets saxophones

Sometimes reality goes the extra distance to live up to our dreams

or possibly a scene from a colorized middle-period Woody Allen movie.

See more pictures from this series at Photo Booth: Eye on Culture: Norfolk Chamber Music Festival : The New Yorker.

Filed under: Feel Good, , ,

Songs of the Season: The Nutcracker

Christmas music is not just nor even mostly Broadway show tunes and pop hits like the ones I’ve been sharing. First and foremost, Christmas music is carols and what we usually call classical musical. Classical Christmas music goes back far – very far – and I’ll be sharing some of that music in the weeks to come, but the most well-known Christmas classical these days is surely…

The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, Schelkunchik) is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from the story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E. T. A. Hoffmann. It was given its premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 18 December 1892, on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera, Iolanta.

Although the original production was not a success, The Nutcracker has enjoyed increasing popularity since the mid-20th century, and is now performed by countless ballet companies primarily during the Christmas season. Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular the pieces featured in The Nutcracker Suite, a selection of eight pieces from the complete score. (via Wikipedia.)

Some of the music:

Overture

ACT II – Selections
Coffee: Arabian Dance
Tea : Chinese Dance
Trepak: Russian Dance
Waltz of the Flowers
Dance of the Prince and the Sugar-Plum Fairy
Variation II: Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy

And a variation – bridging the divide between Christmas and Hanukkah:

Shirim, “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” – from Klezmer Nutcracker

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , ,

Song of the Day: Bach’s Cello Suites

Again, I am not one to not take a hint—and the hint was two different buskers playing Bach’s cello suites in the one day, so…

The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello. They were most likely composed during the period 1717–1723, when Bach served as a Kapellmeister in Cöthen… (via Wikipedia.)

Yo-Yo Ma – Cello Suite No. 1 In G, BWV 1007 – 1. Prelude
Pablo Casals – Cello Suite No. 1 In G, BWV 1007 – 6. Gigue (Vivace)
Mischa Maisky – Cello Suite No. 1 In G, BWV 1007 – 6. Gigue (Vivace)

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

BBC Radio 3 to broadcast classical album chart

BBC Radio 3 to broadcast classical album chart: “Radio 3 is to broadcast a weekly chart of classical music for the first time in its history which will challenge “crusty old preconceptions”.

The station will devote part of its Tuesday breakfast show to discussing albums in the Classical Chart, compiled by the Official Charts Company (OCC)….

Co-presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch said it was “exciting news”.

“I’m looking forward to exploring the chart, and sharing my personal reflections on new arrivals and enduring bestsellers with Breakfast listeners,” she said.

(via BBC News.)

You can listen to the Radio 3 Breakfast Show live, over the internet, from 7-1oam (London time).

I’m not sure how I feel about this. At first I was into the idea. For one thing, the Breakfast show comes on in the early evening in Australia, where I am now, and late at night in San Francisco, where I’ll be shortly – times when I often listen to classical music – and I thought the Chart might help me keep in touch with what’s going on in the world of classical music. I love listening to classical music, but really don’t know much about it, and certainly am not “hip” within this world.

But charts have had such a deadening effect on pop music – and film, and fiction – that it seems like a bit of a worry. If all the Chart did, week after week, was confirm that people are still buying recordings of Beethoven symphonies and “The Four Seasons,” it would be a complete waste of time. On the other hand, there is a real need for something that exposes people to new “classical” music, broadens the scope of their listening and introduces them to important or groundbreaking new recordings of standard pieces – like Steven Isserlis’ recording of the Bach Cello Suites. We’ll see. I’m listening to it now.

Filed under: Music, ,

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zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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