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ClassicsOnline Home » Christmas Orchestral Music - LISZT, F. / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I. / KELLY, B. / LANE, P. (Another Night Before Christmas and Scrooge) (G. Sutherland)
The Christmas net is cast wide in this captivating collection of seasonal music. John Fox has crafted a delightful Carol Fantasia. Bryan Kelly’s Scrooge is an action-packed Dickens compression, brought to visceral life by esteemed actor Simon Callow, who also narrates Philip Lane’s Another Night Before Christmas, an update by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy of the classic poem. Lane’s Old Christmas Music is expressively rich, and spans the centuries. Smaller pieces from Liszt, orchestrated by Gordon Jacob, Rebikov and more recent works, complete a delightful selection.
By Lisa Flynn
Another Night Before Christmas and Scrooge
John Fox was born in Sutton, Surrey and studied composition, violin and piano at the Royal College of Music. He has been a prolific composer of library and concert music, and arranger of others’ work, which he has frequently conducted. During its heyday he was a frequent guest of the BBC Radio Orchestra to which he would often add his own singers. It was for these forces that he wrote his Carol Fantasia for the orchestra’s regular Tuesday night BBC Radio 2 showcase programme introduced by the late Steve Race. He later adapted the work for orchestra alone and it is this version that is recorded here, featuring the carols and Christmas hymns: God rest you, merry gentlemen, Away in a manger, The First Nowell, While shepherds watched, O come all ye faithful, The Holly and the Ivy, We three kings, and Hark! the Herald-Angels sing.
Bryan Kelly was born in Oxford and studied at the Royal College of Music and later with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Spells of teaching in London, Italy and Cairo have accompanied a prolific composing career encompassing most genres. His Improvisations on Christmas Carols was featured on an earlier Naxos Christmas disc (8.557099). Scrooge was given its première in 2010 and condenses Dickens’s tale of A Christmas Carol into just twenty minutes, scored for narrator and orchestra. At the visitation of the three ghosts, the composer employs jaggling chains, which, although successfully passed by British customs, were seized by their Irish counterparts on the return journey as dangerous weapons.
Philip Lane was born in Cheltenham and read music at Birmingham University with John Joubert and Peter Dickinson. As a composer he is virtually self-taught, and has contributed to most genres, both concert and commercial. Of the former he was commissioned in 2009 to write the major seasonal work for the Boston Pops, and of the latter several television animation series including Captain Pugwash, and several tracks in the score for Ocean’s 12. Among his other Christmas compositions are Three Christmas Pictures (8.225185), Wassail Dances (8.557099) and The Night Before Christmas/Overture on French Carols (8.570331). Old Christmas Music comprises arrangements of seasonal works from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, in particular featuring two carols by Peter Warlock, scored for strings alone. Another Night Before Christmas sets lines from the poem by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, updating the nineteenth-century original to the present day with the same basic premise. In this version the little girl in the story (Duffy’s own daughter, Ella) is represented by the piano.
Matthew Curtis was born in Cumbria and read Classics at Worcester College, Oxford before embarking on a business career in London. He has recorded four albums of his highly melodic and colourfully orchestrated music. The concert march, Christmas Rush, captures the spirit of anticipation unique to the season without references to any carols, although the bridge linking the march to the trio section has an air of Deck the Halls about it.
Vladimir Rebikov wrote several major works but seemed happiest as a miniaturist. The six movement Christmas Tree Suite is taken from incidental music to a fairy play called Yalta. The opening Waltz was later extracted and published in this version for strings.
Liszt wrote his twelve-movement Weihnachtsbaum for piano between 1874 and 1876. Four movements from the album along with other piano pieces were used for the Vic-Wells’ ballet Apparitions, in 1936. The various movements were adapted and strung together by Constant Lambert and orchestrated by Gordon Jacob. For this newly created suite I have gone back to the original piano pieces and filled in those bars omitted by Lambert and orchestrated them myself in similar mode to Jacob.
Adam Saunders was born in Derby and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and London University, winning several prizes for composition. As well as concert works, he has established a career writing primarily for the screen, with his music being used in American series such as The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives. Fairytale Sleighride paints a picture of a magical sleigh-ride, journeying through a fairy-tale wintry landscape. En route, various adventurous and humorous encounters take place, until finally arriving triumphantly back at home.
Angela Morley was born Wally Stott in Leeds and started out playing saxophone in Geraldo’s band before taking composition lessons with Matyas Seiber and embarking on a prolific career as composer/arranger with films like Watership Down and The Slipper and the Rose, and music for two of the most famous comedy series of the 1950s, The Goons and Hancock’s Half-Hour. She worked extensively in the United States on television series such as Dallas, and with John Williams, weaving magic into arrangements for leading cross-over artists. Snowride began life on a recorded music library disc but deserves to stand alone as a staple seasonal item for orchestra.
Tchaikovsky’s set of twelve piano pieces, The Seasons, was originally designed to be included in monthly issues of the magazine Nouvelliste. For November (the last issue to be actually published) the composer wrote a Troika which lends itself, as so many of its monthly companions do, to orchestration.
Thomas Hewitt Jones won the BBC Young Composer competition in 2003 since when he has composed music for many genres including several ballets and varied instrumental music. He is composing the scores for the 2012 Olympic Mascots films. Christmas Cracker is a pot-pourri of familiar seasonal tunes, Deck the hall, Hark ! the Herald-Angels sing, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Ding dong! Merrily on high, and O come, all ye faithful. The whip at the very end confirms that the cracker has been successfully pulled.
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