terça-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2012

The Somerset Strings - Music For Christmas At Home

  1. Sleigh Ride
  2. White Christmas
  3. Silent Night, Holy Night
  4. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
  5. Good King Wenceslas
  6. The First Nowell
  7. Jingle Bells
  8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  9. Once In Royal David's City
  10. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
  11. Away In A Manger
  12. O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
Music For Christmas At Home

With the advent of the Christmas season, the ever-lovely songs return again, exultant, reverent and beautiful. Music is part of the very heart of Christmas, its truest sound, and the echoing of carols and hymns in the air is one of the most joyous manifestations of a joyous season. This program of Christmas music, drawing upon some of the most widely-popular melodies, consists of old favorites and new, all of them indivisible now from the wondrous spirit of the holiday.

Sleigh Ride, by Leroy Anderson, opens the program. This is the newest of the melodies in the collection, but already one of the most familiar. In its merry musical description of snowy fields and ringing sleigh bells, it is a natural descendant of Jingle Bells. Within the span of a very few years it has become ensconced as a tuneful and light-hearted summation of an old-fashioned Christmas.

White Christmas, by Irving Berlin, is one of the most extraordinary of popular songs. Almost from the year it was first heard - 1942 - it took its place among the great songs for Christmas, and it has never been equalled in its warmth of holiday sentiment. Neither a carol nor a hymn, White Christmas nevertheless has distilled within its music and lyrics much of the meaning of the season, with its good cheer, its open-heartedness, and its quiet beauty.

From Germany comes one of the most famous of all carols, the lovely Silent Night. The history of this carol is interesting it itself, for it represents genuine inspiration. In the little village of Oberndorf, in Bavaria, the organ of the Church of St. Nicholas had broken down, and special music had to be prepared for the Christmas services. Franz Gruber, organist of the church, wrote the music in only a few hours, and the words were supplied by Joseph Mohr, the vicar; the words were written first. The carol was first heard in a three-part arrangement, accompanied by a guitar. From that beginning, in 1818, the carol became a world-wide favorite, and remains as moving a description of Christmas as has ever been written.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, although not perhaps as famous as some of the other carols in this collection, is nevertheless a lovely and touching evocation of the Christmas spirit. The words, by Nahum Tate, were written in 1703, and it was set to music several times. The melody in this instance is by the great English composer Handel.

Good King Wenceslas is unique among carols in that it bears almost no relation to Christmas itself. The music was adapted from a Swedish Lutheran hymn, Piae Cantiones, which has been traced as far back into history as 1582. The words were set down by Dr. John Mason Neale, and tells the story of an incident in the life of King Wenceslas, King of Bohemia about 900 A.D.

The First Noel is a genuine folksong, which first appeared in print in 1833. The origins of this lovely carol are hidden in history, but traces of them have been found in French manuscripts dating from about 1500, and there are indications that it was popular during the seventeenth century.

Jingle Bells, one of the most rollicking of Christmas songs, is of American origin, and was written by J. S. Pierpont. No holiday season would be complete without this merry picture of sleighs 'dashing through the snow', and, apart from the carols themselves, no other melody so clearly establishes the cheerful mood of the season.

One of the most joyous of carols, and one with an interesting history, is Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. The words of this carol came first, when Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, wrote them in 1739. Then, about one hundred and one years later, Felix Mendelssohn wrote a cantata, "Festgesang", in which the melody appeared. And fifteen years later the words and the music were joined by Dr. W. H. Cummings, the organist of Waltham Abbey in England. The carol was sung in this form for the first time on Christmas day, and at once took its place among the best-loved of all time. So popular did it become that it entirely replaced the music that had previously been composed from the poem!

One of the less familiar carols in this group is Once in Royal David's City, a traditional song of wide appeal and enduring warmth. Some authorities ascribe it to nineteenth century origin, but in this transcription the traditional setting is used.

The words for It Came Upon the Midnight Clear were published in 1850 in the "Christian Register" by the Reverend Edmund Hamilton Sears. He later sent his poem to a friend, asking him to set it to music. This the friend did, and the melody is still occasionally heard. However another melody was composed in 1851 by Richard Willis, a Boston composer, who read the poem in another publication, and at once made his own setting for it, which is the one heard in this program. This is one of the relatively few carols of American origin that have gained world acceptance.

The most widely-known of the lullaby-type of carol is Away in a Manger, one of the most gracious and intimate of carols. Two somewhat different melodies have been given these words, of which that by Spilman, played here by The Somerset Strings, is perhaps in wider use.

The first extant copy of O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) dates from 1751, although the music itself is much older. The translation used in most English-speaking countries was made in 1852. Often known as the "Portuguese Hymn", it has in fact no association with Portugal, but probably became thus known from its frequent performance at the Portuguese Chapel in London. Though so little is known about this great hymn, it is perhaps the most popular of all, and forms a fitting conclusion to this program of music for Christmas at home.

(From the original liner notes)


2 comentários:

  1. A better-quality copy of an old favorite. My thanks, Max!

    ResponderExcluir
  2. wow, this one is a real gem! Three jolly cheers for the Max Hedrom Team!!

    ResponderExcluir

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