The Joys of long-form Christmas music!

manuscript of the Messiah

A manuscript of Messiah (Image via Wikipedia)

Tonight we continue our listening of this wonderful recording of George Friederich Handel‘s Messiah, his 1741 masterpiece.  Although I personally dislike hearing only a portion of a work, it is worth the effort of doing this across two shows, given the pleasure that comes with the full oratorio.  Some of the most beautiful sections from this masterpiece come in the latter half, starting of course with the ever popular “Hallelujah Chorus” that ends Part II, which may be one of the most recognizable bits of music in classical music.  But beyond the Hallelujah Chorus, one can also enjoy the tenor air that immediately precedes the Hallelujah Chorus (“Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron”), the soprano air (“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”) that starts Part III, and the extended bass air that comes shortly thereafter (“The Trumpet Shall Sound”).  There is also a wonderful alto/tenor duet in the midst of Part III (“O death, where is thy sting?”).  Tonight’s recording of Messiah, with the English Chamber Orchestra and conductor Johannes Somary, features some notably splendid performances by bass Justino Diaz (his “The Trumpet Shall Sound” ranks among the more radiant renditions of the aria that I’ve heard personally), and by Yvonne Minton and Alexander Young in the alto/tenor duet.

After Messiah, we went to another piece of music that is popularly associated with Christmas, although like Messiah the association may be considered somewhat incidental.  Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker, premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, easily ranks among the most popular of ballets, and Tchaikovsky’s own rearrangement of selections from the ballet into the “Nutcracker Suite” also remains quite popular.


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