Thursday, December 20

The "Santa Claus" Symphony by William Henry Fry (1813-64) tells a story, scene by detailed scene. Here's how Kile Smith describes Fry's program in his notes to the Naxos recording we hear this morning. Follow along as you listen.

The trumpet announces the Saviour's birth, and the celestial host takes up the chorus. The exultation is broken by loud discords as some of the angels fall away in anger, but harmonious triumph concludes the section. Now a Christmas Eve party: reunited family, dancing, and general frivolity are depicted in pell-mell joy. An impending snowstorm arrives in the brass, but the dancing resumes, quieter this time as the party-goers leave for home. As sleep descends...we hear The Lord's Prayer in syllabic cadence on the upper strings, followed by "Rock-a-by baby" on the soprano saxophone. Muted strings even mimic the baby's breathing. The snowstorm again comes into view, and in the middle of it is a traveller (the solo double bass). Lost and alone, his moans are heard through the wind as he perishes [!]. But this depressing scene shifts as Santa Claus enters, with the voice of the high bassoon, here in his horse-drawn sleigh. Down the chimney he slides with flutes accompanying; plucked strings signify the clicking of toys being dropped into stockings... Santa leaves, the sound of hooves and bells receding into the distance. Up in the sky, extremely high violins portray a chorus of angels singing the familiar "Adeste fideles." The sun rises on Christmas Day. The house awakens to the sounds of "Get up!" on the horn and "Little Bo-peep" on the trumpets as the children play. The beginning of the work reappears, as does "Adeste fideles," as Santa Claus closes in a hymn of praise.
Other highlights today include the original 1723 version of Bach's Magnificat, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, and (the original 1966 version of) How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Friday please join Alan Cooke at 11:00 for Midday Music Requests. Monday at 11:00 GPB brings you the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge, England, in real time. On Christmas Day please join us for Handel's Messiah from Philadelphia. I'll be back with you Wednesday. Rest ye merry, listeners!

11 AM . . . Grechaninov: Passion Week [SACD] . Fry: Santa Claus Symphony / Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  • Grechaninov: In Thy Kingdom, from Passion Week. Phoenix Bach Choir, Kansas City Chorale, Bruffy (Chandos 5044, multiple Grammy nominee)
  • Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in E, "Rest, for Christmas Night," RV 270. Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante (Virgin 45424)
  • Mackenzie: The Cricket on the Hearth, Overture (based on Dickens). BBC Scottish Sym, Brabbins (Hyperion 66764)
  • Fry: Santa Claus Symphony. Royal Scottish National Orch, Rowe (Naxos 8.559057)
12 N . . . Christmas Cantatas
  • Mendelssohn: Hymns, Op. 79: Advent; Christmas. Oregon Symphony Horns (Centaur 2344)
  • Bach: Magnificat, BWV 243a (original 1723 version). Collegium Vocale Gent, Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi 901781.82; also available on 901326)
  • Dello Joio: Variants on a Mediaeval Tune (In Dulci Jubilo). Keystone Wind Ensemble, Stamp (Klavier 11138)
  • Tchaikovsky: The Seasons: December - Christmas-tide. Moscow Chamber Orch, Orbelian (Delos 3255)
1 PM . . . How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 TV Film)
  • Handel: Messiah: Hallelujah Chorus. Boston Baroque, Pearlman (Telarc 80322)
  • Feliciano/Kromer: Feliz Navidad. Eaken Piano Trio (Naxos 8.554714)
  • Seuss, Hague: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Boris Karloff, Who Village Orchestra and Chorus (Mercury 314 528 438)
  • Locatelli: Christmas Concerto (Concerto Grosso Op. 1/8 in F minor). Tafelmusik Baroque Orch, Lamon (Analekta 9811)