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Cheska’s Christmas Classical Chart

Trinity’s resident music aficionado gives us some advice on classical treats for Christmas. Coming from a family of classical musicians – the ultimate Christmassy classical playlist causes much dispute!  Although there’s nothing better than hearing Slade’s “ Merry Christmas” being blasted out through living rooms nationwide, why not shake things up this holiday with something a bit different . Here are some of my personal favourites.

  1. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker– I am picking a cliché here- but come on who doesn’t love the Nutcracker?! It’s full of memorable tunes and depending on the production you are watching, is a total feast for the eyes. I spent my early childhood  attempting to emulate the famous sugar plum fairy dance with a feather duster on my head, but this version from the Bolshoi Ballet is much more polished than any of my attempts as a toddler 
  2. Giovanni Gabrieli, Quem Vidistis Pastores Opulent and decadent, and full of glittering gold tones… The Venetians do Christmas properly, and especially in the dazzling choral music of the late Renaissance. Here Gabrieli offsets the earthy sounds of sackbuts and cornets (think very posh brass band) with impressive choral lines reaching down from the heavens. It ends in some of the richest most thrilling chords you’ll ever hear! Best enjoyed when opening gifts or dining with family to feel grand and epic.
  3. Tchaikvosky’s Opera- Queen Of Spades. Although Tchaikovsky’s Queen Of Spades is  not a particularly Christmassy tale- given the fact that the main character Herman has a desperate gambling addiction that in turn causes his beloved Liza to commit suicide by throwing herself into the icy Neva river, Herman’s love rival for Liza’s affections, Prince Yeletsky sings a lovely aria earlier in the opera titled “Ja Vas Lyublu” which translates from Russian as I love you beyond measure (if only Liza picked him!). This heartfelt and lush recording from great Armenian baritone Pavel Litisian is best listened to with some red wine and a mince pie.
  4. William Byrd, O Magnum Mysterium. Beauty and sadness are often intertwined in the music of William Byrd, a practising Catholic who had the misfortune (not to mention courage) to write religious music during the Protestant regime of Elizabeth I. The great “mystery” of the title is that the miracle of Christ’s birth has been witnessed by mere farmyard animals, and Byrd pointedly produces a lament for civilisation gone astray – imploring and hoping, that things might change. This makes poignant and haunting Christmas listening 
  5. Arvo Part- Estonian Lullaby. Much less known than the other pieces picked , this unique and modern Christmas lullaby is effortlessly beautiful. Arvo Part is one of my favourite modern composers as his music possesses both ethereal and human qualities. Like Byrd, Part was composing religious music under a repressive regime, and though this is a soft voice yearning for change- it is equally touching
  6. John Cage 4 minutes and 33 seconds – Utterly ridiculous and wonderful- I’m still campaigning for this to get to number 1 in the UK charts- this is also great for making your drunk guests sigh at your own pretentiousness!

Merry Listening from Trinity PR team

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