Corelli: Christmas Concerto
There is the sound of yuletide bells assimilated by the melodic clamor executed by the musicians in the kettle drum section of the orchestra. And then there comes the burst of triangles and the harmonious fraternizing efforts of the horn ad string section. Corelli’s “ Christmas Concerto is more of a secular work than one that joyously means to proclaim the habitual character of the erstwhile jolly and cheerful season of holiday mirth. This is a work that children will probably not have much enthusiasm for, unlike the manner and gratuitous form of salutation that the young bequeath to Tchaikovsky’s “ Nutcracker” – both for its musical libretto and its lively ballet.
Barber: Die natali, Choral Preludes for Christmas
Like any work of Barber, the “ Die natali” does not deviate from the pompous and robust musicality which defines the musical nuances unique to Barber as a famed composer. The “ Die natali” has been used in many a school production during the season of St. Nicholas, his host of reindeer, his legendary sleigh and his magical sack of bottomless gifts and goodies for the “nice” little, and young children.
Often associated with the holiday imagery of choral groups bunched up in clothes to combat the cold of winter, standing close to each other in their respective positions [after all, Barber’s “Die Natali” is a series of choral preludes meant especially for the time of roasted chestnuts, woolen scarves and hats on people’s heads, jovial and generous smiles; generally a time of charitable camaraderie and brotherhood (fellowship) amongst the world of the living—of course, in commemoration of the birth of the infant baby Jesus, for most Catholic countries], their respective positions in a street performing choir.
Pietra Salcedo in Antonio Vivaldi
La Historia de un Canziones por la bailar y vida explains to music majors, and music lovers, that much of the poetic imagery that audiences gather from experiencing the sublime and lyrical musical qualities of this work of Vivaldi, are explained by the directions in the sheet music that touch on the sound dynamics of the piece and the tempo directions as well. These aforementioned factors may (of course) be attributed to how the composer, Antonio Vivaldi, had a penchant for infusing his distinct musical linguistics with dramatic inventiveness and ingenuity.
This composer would often use the ordinary events of life in this world[such as the breath that one exhales on a snowy morning and it breaks the transparent air which surrounds the person who is breathing, and also this, of how a dog wishing to catch your attention will necessarily give out this common, recognizable sound: the barking of a dog] to act as his artistic influences. And so, since his music would almost always be akin to forms of creative storytelling,[the compositions would be telling a story], Vivaldi is said to be one of the forerunners of program music(61).
When one listens to Vivaldi’s “ Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor”, one is surprised that the music the greets the listener is not something that aims to emulate the breadth of an abyss defined by what the French refer to as “ l’ pathetique”. Vivaldi’s arrangement for the two cellos (in a minor note, at that!) is delightfully lacking in those elements of the macabre quality that is proper to anything that entails grief and grieving, something that is usually identified with the sonorous ululations that originate from the “diaphragm” of a cello ( in this case, cellos), those proverbial hearts of cellos whose sublime, musical, and inert musings and feelings emanate when strings of the cello bow, start to stroke and caress the belly of a cello’s body form, and when the sound emanates, the abstract and lyric can now communicate with the subconscious and sleeping potency of man’s psyche.
Grainger: Molly on the Shore
Listening to Grainger’s “Molly on the Shore” , gives any audience a delightful mixture of musical imagery that stems from an imaginative combination of legends from the wood folk forest pixies, brownies and the lovely, mischievous fairies of Queen Mab and her sister, the Lady of Lake. One can imagine visions of pungent, hickory smoke from lobsters and saltwater bounty being broiled and roaster over a crackling clam-bake fire. There is also the picturesque conjuring of children, ladies, and dashing male debonair revelers in sailor outfits from the Gibson era. Then you can almost taste the scent of candied apples and touch the tip of a ribbon which is presently entwining with soft, cascades of twirling hair, from the sprightly youths who are participating in a game of ring o’ ribbons or the ribbons game, which was popular during the Victorian era.
Once can also, almost imagine the amber eiderdown of the lasses’ wavy hair, and there are brunettes and blonds with their verdant, green eyes or honeysuckle brown irises, or even angelic blue ones ( those painted on Botticelli’s beloved cherubs. One of these girls could be Molly. The orchestration in Grainger’s “ Molly on the Shore is reminiscent of the soft, lolling of patriotic bagpipes and fiddler jigs, common to cockney Scotland, Ireland,and the woodland country of England and that of Europe, in general.(Quotation taken from Andrew Gowan’s Self Portrait of Grainger).
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Greensleeves
“Fantasia on Greensleeves” is a very romantic, and haunting musical composition by composer Vaughan William’s. It is almost Shakespearian in its embodiment. A cross juxtaposition of all these three from Shakespeare’s many well-loved classic plays [drama(s)]: the ethereal Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, the equally dreamy Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The “Fantasia” has traces of the courtly dances of medieval lore, then there is the pas d’ deuce ( pas d’ deuxe) of that same immortalized narrative illustration of the ethereal lovers in a private rendezvous, as protected and cloistered by the understanding and tolerant enclave of Nature and a beauteous moonlight ( beams of butter on gold) illuminating the radiant faces of those who love and are loved; lastly there are also those juicy, ruby-like berries that function in the realm of our mind’s conjuring as the symbolism of fertility comes with the ripeness of the hybrid of an apocalyptic birthing. And this is the birthing of, none else, but a new romance.
Tchaikovsky: Selections from The Nutcracker
Finally, we come to the probably one of the most loved Christmas ballets of all time. Tchaikovsky’s “ The Nutcracker “ is an exemplary and sublime ballet, among whose acts include the ever-popular Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies and the pas d’deuce of the Toy Soldier and the Doll, lastly, The Dance of the Mouse King.
In Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies, the listeners are able to recognize at once that the delightful and lovely character of the dance comes from the decision of Tchaikovsky to write in a myriad of syncopated rhythmic bars, given their character by the series of staccato beat notes that dramatize in musical form, the sugar coated wings of the purple lavender donned sugar-plum fairies of the ballet.
The ballet’s musical libretto needs these contrasts in pitch and tone dynamics in order to righteously portray the alternating movers of the ballet’s narrative. The creeping, playful, and cheeky approach of the fairies are complemented by the bursts of regal up-stroked( on the violins ) chorus of the dance of the Toy Soldier , which seem to be heralding and announcing the coming dance movements of the danseur who will be portraying the Toy Soldier, because the latter is choreographed to dance to Tchaikovsky’s musical libretto in great bounds and manly grand jete’ leaps. “ The Nutcracker” ballet has been the most enjoyable to listen to, in the process of writing this paper.
- Gowan, Andrew. Self Portrait of Grainger, Oxford University Press: 2007.
- Fanfare.VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on “Greensleeves.” Oboe Concerto.1 Tuba Concerto. France, 2007.
- Leurzalt, Ettiene. Corelli and Christmas. New York: New Bookwagon Press, 2000.
- Salcedo, Pietra Antonio Vivaldi: La Historia de un Canziones por bailar y vida! . Madrid:Marzianna Publishing, 2001.