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Preview: Holiday Guide 2011

Holiday Guide 2011

Gift guides for the classical fan, family-friendly concerts, Christmas cookies, and more to bring cheer this holiday season.

Last Build Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2011 06:00:00 -0500


Results of the 2011 Classical Countdown

Thu, 29 Dec 2011 06:00:00 -0500

For the past several weeks we asked listeners to vote for their favorite pieces of classical music. We received thousands of votes for pieces that truly ran the classical music gamut. The countdown this year will run from Thursday, Dec. 29, to Saturday, Dec. 31. It will begin each morning at 9 am and run each day to around midnight. And in honor of WQXR’s diamond anniversary, we will be counting down the top 75 listener choices. As we count down the final results, we’ll post regular updates here. To find out what recordings were played, please consult our playlists page. Thank you to everyone who participated. 75. Felix Mendelssohn — A Midsummer Night’s Dream 74. Giacomo Puccini — Turandot 73. Modest Mussorgsky — Pictures at an Exhibition 72. Edward Elgar — Enigma Variations 71. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Swan Lake 70. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky — The Nutcracker 69. Samuel Barber — Adagio for Strings 68. Richard Wagner — Tristan und Isolde 67. Carl Orff — Carmina Burana 66. Gabriel Faure — Requiem 65. Johann Sebastian Bach — Cello Suite No. 1 64. Claude Debussy — Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune) 63. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 62. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467 61. Maurice Ravel — Bolero 60. Giacomo Puccini — La Boheme 59. Johannes Brahms — Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 83 58. Johann Pachelbel — Canon in D 57. Sergei Prokofiev — Romeo and Juliet Suite 56. Edward Elgar — Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 55. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Le Nozze di Figaro (Marriage of Figaro) 54. Aaron Copland — Rodeo 53. Sergei Rachmaninoff — Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 52. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" 51. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Don Giovanni 50. Jean Sibelius — Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 42 49. Felix Mendelssohn — Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, "Italian" 48. Gustav Mahler — Symphony No. 1 in D, "The Titan" 47. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 46. Johannes Brahms — Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 45. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 44. Ludwig van Beethoven — Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 "Moonlight" 43. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, "Pathetique" 42. Leonard Bernstein — Candide 41. Bedrich Smetana — Ma Vlast 40. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Clarinet Concerto in A, K. 622 39. Antonin Dvorak — Concerto in B Minor for Cello, Op. 104 38. Leonard Bernstein — West Side Story 37. Johann Sebastian Bach — St. Matthew Passion 36. Igor Stravinsky — L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) 35. Anton Bruckner — Symphony No. 8 in C Minor 34. Johannes Brahms — Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 33. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550 32. Johannes Brahms — German Requiem, Op. 45 31. George Gershwin — An American in Paris 30. Johannes Brahms — Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 29. Ludwig van Beethoven — Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 28. Giuseppe Verdi — Messa da Requiem 27. Felix Mendelssohn — Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 26. Igor Stravinsky — Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) 25. Johann Sebastian Bach — Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 24. Franz Schubert — Piano Quintet in A, Op. 114, D. 667, "The Trout" 23. Jean Sibelius — Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82 22. Gustav Holst — The Planets, Op. 32 21. Antonio Vivaldi — Four Seasons, Op. 8 20. Gustav Mahler — Das Lied von der Erde 19. Johann Sebastian Bach — Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 18. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Symphony No. 41 in C, K. 551, "Jupiter" 17. Gustav Mahler — Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor 16. Ludwig van Beethoven — Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" 15. Franz Schubert — Symphony No. 9 in C, D. 944, "The Great" 14. George Gershwin — Rhapsody in Blue 13. George Frideric Handel — Messiah 12. Johann Sebastian Bach — Brandenburg Concert[...]

The Five Greatest Carols Ever

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 00:00:00 -0500

"In The Bleak Midwinter" is the world’s greatest Christmas carol, according to a poll by of leading choirmasters and choral experts from the US and the UK. The song came out on top, placing above well-known carols like “Silent Night,” “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and “Once in Royal David's City.” Gustav Holst wrote a popular version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" in 1909, followed two years later by Harold Darke's arrangement. Admirers especially praise the haunting beauty of the carol's text by the English poet Christina Rossetti (sample verse: "In the bleak midwinter / Frosty wind made moan / Earth was hard as iron / Water like a stone"). Second is "Ding Dong Merrily on High," a carol that first appeared as a 16th-century dance tune known as "le branle de l'Official," and whose lyrics are from 19th-century English composer George Ratcliffe Woodward. Third on the list is "In Dulci Jubilo," also known in English as "Good Christian Men, Rejoice," and one of the few bilingual Christmas carols. "Silent Night," "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Once in Royal David's City" round out the top five. Below follows the top five list (including several ties) and the choral directors' individual lists. What's missing? What are your favorites? Leave your comments and your own favorites in the box below. All-Time Top Five 1. In the Bleak Midwinter 2. Ding Dong Merrily on High 3. In Dulci Jubilo 4. Silent Night 5. Tie: O Come, All Ye Faithful / Once in Royal David's City (Runners-Up: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; Still, Still, Still)   James Bagwell, music director, Collegiate Chorale 1. Once in Royal David's City 2. The First Noel 3. In the Bleak Mid-Winter 4. Wexford Carol 5. Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming   Andrew Carwood, Director of Music, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London 1. Bethlehem Down - Peter Warlock 2. It came upon the midnight clear - Arthur Sullivan 3. In the bleak midwinter - Gustav Holst 4. Sing lullaby - Herbert Howells 5. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day - John Gardner   Harry Christophers, founder, The Sixteen; artistic director, the Handel and Haydn Society 1. In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst) 2. Ding Dong Merrily on High (harm. Charles Wood) 3. This is the Truth Sent From Above (harm: Vaughan Williams) 4. Angelus ad virginem (MS C14th)   Joseph Flummerfelt, founder and musical director of the New York Choral Artists, an artistic director of Spoleto Festival USA 1. Silent Night 2. Coventry Carol 3. Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming 4. O Come all Ye Faithful 5. Once in Royal David's City ("though it technically probably isn't considered a carol")   John Daly Goodwin, Conductor, New York Choral Society 1. Once in Royal David’s City 2. Hark The Herald Angles Sing 3. Ding Dong Merrily On High 4. Lully Lullay 5. In The Bleak Midwinter   Jolle Greenleaf, artistic director, TENET / Green Mountain Project 1. Wither's Rocking Hymn - R.V.Williams 2. Sussex Carol - many versions 3. A Spotless Rose - Howells 4. In Dulci Jubilo - Praetorius 5. Jesus Christ the Apple Tree - Poston   Francisco Núñez, music director, Young People’s Chorus of New York 1. A la nanita nana (Spain) 2. O Holy Night 3. In the Bleak Midwinter 4. Once in Royal David's City 5. Stille Nacht   Peter Phillips, director, Tallis Scholars 1. Joseph lieber - Joseph mein 2. In Dulci Jubilo (by M. Praetorius) 3. When to the temple Mary went 4. God rest you merry, gentlemen 5. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming)   Amanda Quist, Westminster Choir College 1. Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming - Praetorius 2. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (Polish carol) 3. O Come, All Ye Faithful 4. Angels We Have Heard On High 5. In the Bleak Midwinter, Holst   Harold Rosenbaum, conductor & founder, New York Virtuoso Singers 1. O Come All Ye Faithful 2. Silent Night 3. Hark the Herald Angels Sing 4. Ding Dong Merrily on High 5. Joy to the World   John Scott, organist and di[...]

John Rutter's Carols Herald the Season

Sat, 17 Dec 2011 12:09:41 -0500

In the world of choral music, John Rutter is Mr. Christmas: the most prolific and commercially successful carol composer alive. He has written dozens of carols and arranged a similar number. His larger-scale works -- notably the Gloria (1974), Requiem (1985) and Magnificat (1990) -- are also well-known in the choral repertoire. The four volumes of Carols for Christmas, which he edited with conductor Sir David Willcocks, remain standard texts.

But if you're not familiar with Rutter's work -- he remains better-known in his native England -- don't fret. A new collection called The Colors of Christmas provides a fine starting point. The composer leads the Bach Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a festive mix of original material and arrangements.

A disciple of the English choral tradition, Rutter has a knack for the big flourish. His treatment of “Once in Royal David’s City,” for instance, builds to a brass climax slightly reminiscent of "Star Wars." Similarly, he takes David Willcocks’ already grand versions of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark, the Herald Angels” and adds some extra fanfares. He adds some extra counterpoint to "Joy to the World" and jazzes up “Ding Dong! Merrily On High” with syncopated rhythms and twinkly percussion.

Yet many other Rutter arrangements are appropriately simple and unadorned, including “Away in a Manger,” “Deck the Hall” and “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.” Of the composer’s original compositions, we hear his early “Star Carol,” a catchy and appealing melody, full of a touching emotional naivety, and the well-crafted eponymous song in a triple meter.

With 23 tracks and 70 minutes of music, it’s a good feast of holiday cheer, and the orchestra and singers are in winning form.

The Colors Of Christmas
John Rutter, Bach Choir, Royal Philharmonic
Over the Bridge (guest singers)
Available at

Top Five Alternative Nutcrackers

Wed, 14 Dec 2011 14:39:12 -0500

From Disney’s Fantasia to phone commercials, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite pops up frequently. However, the twinkly score and the classic ballet are especially ubiquitous throughout the month of December, and so are its parodies. Here are our top five alternative Nutcrackers. 

1. The Simpsons' Nutcracker

Lisa Simpson, just after dancing Clara in Springfield Elementary School’s Nutcracker, hit the nail on the head when she explains that the ballet’s music is so popular “because you don’t have to pay for the music rights.” On cue, Marge starts singing her to-do list to March; Moe tries to commit suicide to the Dance of the Flutes; and Marge and Homer exchange gifts to the Sugar Plum Fairy’s pas de deux with her Cavalier.

2. Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn

In 1960, Duke Ellington and his longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn adopted Tchaikovsky’s original for a big band swing orchestra. The resulting, Nutcracker Suite, transforms the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and the Russian “Trepak” to “Sugar Rum Cherry” and “Volga Vouty,” respectively. Two decades later, the jazzed up piece inspired choreographer Donald Byrd to create a Harlem Nutcracker to the music. More recently it was part of a the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic broadcast it as part of a program called Nutcracker Swing.

3. A Burlesque Nutcracker

For the sixth straight year Seattle’s Triple Door presents a rendition of the E.T.A Hoffman story that’s naughtier than nice in Land of the Sweets: A Burlesque Nutcracker. Neither Clara nor Fritz appears here, instead the performance explores what the saccharine characters like Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Charles Drosselmingus and the Sugar Plum Fairy do in their off hours. Hint: there are more pasties than pastries.

5. An R-Rated Nutcracker

The Land of the Sweets seems tame compared to Angela Harriell’s Nutcracker: Rated R. This story of family dysfunction, which comes to Le Poisson Rouge on Dec. 22, centers on leftist leaning Clara, who’s rebelling against her bourgeois parents. In a twist that seems to come straight out of A Christmas Carol, Uncle Drosselmeyer takes Clara back in time to New York City’s drug-fueled underground club scene in the ’80s, where she unearths family secrets.

5. A Hockey Nutcracker

When you hear of Nutcracker on Ice, you don’t normally envision grizzled men with missing teeth on skates. However, the NHL’s Boston Bruins adopted 1970s song “Nut Rocker,” a jazzed up rendition of the March—it sounds like a cross between Tchaikovsky and Jerry Lee Louis—as its theme.

Weigh in: Do you have a favorite unusual version of the Nutcracker? Leave your comments below:

Live from Trinity Church: Handel's Messiah 2011

Mon, 12 Dec 2011 11:59:49 -0500

On Monday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 pm, WQXR presented a complete performance of Handel's Messiah by the resident Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra live from Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. Conductor Julian Wachner leads the orchestra through this perennial favorite, featuring an elaborate mix of chorus, soloists, and orchestra in the church where it received its New World premiere in 1770.

David Garland hosts, with additional commentary from conductor and organist Kent Tritle. Listen to the concert here at on our audio stream.

Program Details:

Monday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Handel's Messiah
Julian Wachner, conductor
Trinity Baroque Orchestra
Robert Mealy, concertmaster


Part I

Stephen Sands
Richard Lippold
Mellissa Hughes
Ryland Angel
Jonathan Woody
Melissa Attebury
Eric Brenner

Part II
Ryland Angel
Geoffrey Silver
Mellissa Hughes
Molly Quinn
Richard Lippold
Eric Dudley

Part III
Jolle Greenleaf
Dashon Burton
Ryland Angel
Elizabeth Baber

A Grand Piano Christmas

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 19:42:29 -0500

Aside from George Winston's "December" and Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas,” there have been very few solo piano Christmas albums in modern times. Even fewer come in a classical vein. Long Island pianist Jeffrey Biegel capably fills some of the void with "A Steinway Christmas Album," a collection of 21 glowing arrangements of time-honored carols, beloved winter melodies and evocative new works.

As the title suggests, this is the latest release on the Steinway & Sons recording label, which was launched in October 2010 with Biegel playing Bach. He opens this, his follow-up release, with Andrew Gentile's pianistic arrangement of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” complete with big octaves and stride flourishes in the final chorus. The traditional carols that follow include “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Silent Night,” the latter in two strikingly different arrangements. 

Indeed, this is an arrangers' disc through and through. One clever arrangement combines “Ding Dong Merrily On High” with Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Another, called “Quiet Night,” melds “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” in a haunting, Ivesian fashion. Donald Sosin’s arrangement of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is brilliantly re-imagined as a Beethoven sonata movement.

Not to be overlooked are excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and The Seasons, Max Reger’s op. 17 Weinachtstraum, Franz Liszt’s The Sheperds at the Manger, and a haunting waltz, Yolka, Vladimir Rebikov. A handful of international songs (Svyatki’s Fêtes de Noël) and Biegel’s own arrangements -- including Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” and “Auld Lang Syne” -- are part of the celebration too.

For a musical season that sometimes gravitates to bombastic excess, Biegel’s album is a welcome dose of straightforwardness. A collectible Christmas tree ornament rounds out the package.

Listen: Jeffrey Biegel tells host Jeff Spurgeon how Facebook played a role in the album:

A Steinway Christmas Album
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
Steinway & Sons
Available at

A Christmas Carol Live From The Greene Space

Thu, 08 Dec 2011 00:00:00 -0500

A star-studded cast from WQXR and WNYC presents the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, live from the Greene Space. Tune into WQXR's on-air broadcast on 12/24 and 12/25 to listen to the performance or watch the video of the archived webcast below.

Playing the miserly ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge is television and film actor F. Murray Abraham, who won an Oscar for his role as Antonio Salieri in the 1984 film Amadeus. Soundcheck’s John Schaefer serves as narrator, Jeff Spurgeon is the good-hearted Bob Cratchit and David Garland plays Jacob Marley.

Here is the complete cast and crew lineup:

Artistic Team:
Elliott Forrest – director.
Arthur Yorinks – writer.
Fred Newman (Prairie Home Companion) – sound effects.
John Forster – composer/pianist.

Narrator – John Schaefer.
Ebenezer Scrooge – F. Murray Abraham.
Bob Cratchit – Jeff Spurgeon.
Child – Jalen Robinson (11-year-old student).
Nephew – Jad Abumrad.
Gentleman – Richard Hake.
Marley – David Garland.
Mrs. Dilber – Naomi Lewin.
Christmas Past – Nimet Habachy.
Young Scrooge – Elliott Forrest.
Fan – Naomi Lewin.
Fezziwig – Brian Zumhagen.
Belle – Lorraine Mattox.
Adult Scrooge - Elliott Forrest.
Christmas Present – Robert Krulwich.
Mrs. Cratchit – Celeste Headlee.
Belinda – Naomi Lewin.
Martha – Lorraine Mattox.
Peter Cratchit – Jad Abumrad.
Tiny Tim – Jalen Robinson.
Nephew’s Wife – Lorraine Mattox.
Businessman 1 – Richard Hake.
Businessman 2 – David Garland.
Miss Eliza – Celeste Headlee.
Undertaker – Elliott Forrest.
Old Joe – Brian Zumhagen.
Boy – Jalen Robinson.

A broadcast recording of A Christmas Carol: A Radio Drama, will air at 8 pm on Dec. 24.

Watch a video of the Webcast:

The Operavore 2011 Gift Guide

Tue, 06 Dec 2011 22:02:00 -0500

I love holidays, especially when it comes to gift-giving. I love finding that perfect gift and, while the secret to really good gift-giving is not imposing your agenda on someone else's presents, it's also a fun time to turn their ears on to new sounds of the times. With that in mind, and piggybacking onto WQXR's Holiday Gift Guide, here's five acts worth of CDs and DVDs to make spirits bright, broken down by category. The Splurge: Wagner: The Complete Operas Just in time for the holidays, Daniel Barenboim’s complete Wagner compendium has been amassed by Teldec into one mega-box set of 34 discs, featuring his tantamount Tannhäuser with Jane Eaglen, Peter Seiffert and Thomas Hampson, a Der fliegende Holländer that features a small cameo by none other than Rolando Villazón and a complete Ring Cycle with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra. Barenboim’s sensitive and fiery conducting makes this a box set that will tide you over until the end of next year (or, in Götterdämmerung fashion and as a nod to the 2012 doomsday predictions, the end of the world—whichever comes first). The Rimsky-Korsako-ffee Klatch: The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and Orchestral Suites Naxos is on a Russian roll this month with a double-hitter from this member of The Five. Bass Mikhail Kazakov, who made an impressive star turn in Dallas earlier this year in the title role of Boris Godunov, headlines the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari’s The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, a dreamy work widely thought to be the Russian Parsifal. Also out this month on Naxos are orchestral suites from several of Rimsky-Korsakov’s other operas, including The Snow Maiden, Sadko and Le Coq d’or. Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony are in incredibly fine form with this repertoire, which you can also hear on recordings of Scheherazade and Capriccio espagnol, also released on Naxos this past May and September, respectively. The Full (Diva) Package: Anna Bolena, Anna Nicole, The Callas Effect, Capriccio, Dame Joan Sutherland: Complete Decca Studio Recitals, Diva, Divo, Homage to Maria Callas Pick one or a few from the list above for the diva worshipper or neophyte in your crowd. A great start-off point is EMI’s sleekly-packaged The Callas Effect, an exhaustive exploration of the late, great La Divina’s career with both hits and rarities, or spring for the newest collection from Decca of La Stupenda’s complete compendium for Decca. From there, follow up with the younger sets, like mezzo Joyce DiDonato’s Grammy-nominated cross-dressing studio album or Angela Gheorghiu’s own love letter to Callas (okay, and herself, but that’s why we love her). Polish off with a few DVDs, like Anna Netrebko’s successful turn as Anna Bolena from Vienna or Renée Fleming’s Straussian serenade in Capriccio at the Met. For another take on diva, look no further than Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole.   The Baroque’n Rollercoaster: Atys, Armide, Lamentazione, Duetti, Il Caro Sassone, Farnace, Ezio, Porpora Cantatas Whether your loved ones marveled to BAM’s Atys and Iestyn Davies in the Met’s Rodelinda or whether they had to sit those (artfully choreographed) dances out, there’s a lot to choose from this year when it comes to the earlier side of the operatic spectrum. For starters, Christie’s Atys has been released on DVD, just a few months after Fra Musica released his Armide—the perfect one-two punch for a long winter’s night. Tread into Virgin territory with the label’s recordings of Vivaldi’s Farnace or Gluck’s Ezio, or their Les Arts Florissants single discs. They include a duets disc from countertenors Max Emanuel Cencic and Philippe Jaroussky under Christie’s baton, and a collection of doleful tunes by Scarlatti, Caldara and more sung by Paul Agnew. Not enough? Relive Iestyn Davies’s debut with the Met on his Hyperion recording of [...]

WQXR's 2011 Holiday Programming

Tue, 06 Dec 2011 16:49:19 -0500

WQXR is pleased to present special programming throughout the 2011 holiday season. Here is a calendar of the Hanukkah and Christmas specials that you will hear in December. All this Month: presents a special holiday-themed music stream. A gift from us to you - uninterrupted music all month long. UPDATE: Due to popular demand, we've extended the Holiday Stream to run through Jan. 7. Enjoy! 12/1 WQXR Holiday Channel Online at WQXR.ORGWQXR is getting into the holiday spirit with an all-classical Christmas channel.  Now through December 31, the WQXR Holiday Channel will stream continuous seasonal favorites. From beloved carols to festive winter favorites, our stream includes classic recordings from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Philadelphia Brass, and Robert Shaw, as well as new releases from John Rutter, Jeffrey Biegel and more.12/12 - 7:30 pm Trinity Church Choir – Handel's Messiah Music director Julian Wachner conducts Handel’s classic oratorio, which received its New World premiere at Trinity Church in 1770.  Our annual broadcast is hosted by David Garland with guest commentator Kent Tritle. 12/12-16 - 6:30 pm Nutcracker Sweets  This week Naomi Lewin talks with author and chef Rose Levy Beranbaum of The Cake Bible and Rose’s Christmas Cookies to explore Christmas cookie recipes based on Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet.  From gingerbread to sugar plums, expect a new recipe – and some insider baking tips – every day. View the recipes.12/18 - 7 am (repeated at 11 pm) The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle: Handel’s Judas Maccabeus Hosted by the conductor the New York Times called “the brightest star in New York’s choral music world,” The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle explores the vibrant and transformative world of choral music.  This week: Kent presents the Reader’s Digest version of Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus, based on the story celebrated at Chanukah.12/18 - 4 pm An Early Music & Baroque ChristmasHoliday oldies!  Host David Garland presents two hours of Christmas and wintertime music from medieval times through the Baroque era.12/18 - 9 pm (pre-empting St. Paul Sunday) Christmas Daybreak with Bill McLaughlin Host Bill McGlaughlin welcomes the singers of The Crossing Choir and actors from the Pig Iron Theatre Company as they present new music for Christmas by American and British composers.12/19 - 8 pm A Chanticleer Christmas A Chanticleer Christmas is American Public Media's one-hour celebration of the season as told through the glorious voices of Chanticleer, the 12-voice San Francisco-based men's choir. The program spans the globe and the centuries — from England in the 1300s to new arrangements of classic contemporary carols. And no Chanticleer program would be complete without Joseph Jenning's patented Christmas spirituals arrangements.12/20 - 6:30 pm: A Chanukah Musical Celebration The spirit of Chanukah, a holiday joyous at freedom's triumph and spiritual rededication, is richly reflected in the folk melodies and songs from countries across the globe where Jews have lived and worshiped for centuries. Host Naomi Lewin presents this music for all to enjoy in A Chanukah Musical Celebration. This program is hosted by Naomi Lewin and was produced while she was at WGUC in Cincinnati. 12/20 - 8 pm: The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle: Handel’s Judas Maccabeus Hosted by the conductor the New York Times called “the brightest star in New York’s choral music world,” The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle explores the vibrant and transformative world of choral music. This week: Kent presents the Reader’s Digest version of Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus, based on the story celebrated at Chanukah.12/21 - 8 pm: La Nochebuena: A Spanish Renaissance Christmas with the Rose Ensemble In La Nochebuena, The Rose Ensemble explores the great variety of music that filled the roya[...]

WQXR For The Holidays

Sun, 04 Dec 2011 16:17:27 -0500

We’ll be completely candid about our latest Album of the Week: It’s an unabashed pitch for one of our own creations.* But a pretty darn good one, if we do say so. WQXR For the Holidays is a chance to put our own curatorial stamp on the holiday album. It’s a collection of carols, songs and classical Christmas pieces presented in rich yet tasteful orchestral, choral and chamber arrangements.

A few ground rules helped guide this set: 1) keep the bombast to a minimum, 2) no syrupy string arrangements and 3) emphasize the classical side of the holiday canon. Thus, among the composers you'll find are Bach (the Christmas Oratorio Part I and Sheep May Safely Graze), Corelli (the Largo from the Christmas Concerto), Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on Greensleeves), Tchaikovsky (three excerpts from the Nutracker Suite) and Handel (what else, but the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah).

The collection includes no fewer than three takes on “Sleigh Ride”: the popular light orchestral piece by Leroy Anderson, heard in a bouncy version by the Richard Hayman Orchestra; Frederick Delius's little-known but enchanting Sleigh Ride; and Mozart’s “Schlittenfahrt” from the Three German Dances, with its jangly assortment of tuned sleigh bells.

And there are plenty of carols including In dulci jubilo, in an arrangement by John Rutter; the 16th-century carol Gaudete Christus est natus; and In the Bleak Midwinter, a piece that was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world's leading choral experts in 2008. The performers, all drawn from the Naxos catalog, include choruses like the Trinity Church Choir, Elora Festival Singers and Washington Choral Arts Society; and ensembles such as the New Zealand Symphony and Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Pianist Leon Fleisher even appears on one track.

Happy listening, and Happy Holidays!

2011 WQXR Holiday Gift Guide

Sun, 04 Dec 2011 12:00:00 -0500

The gifts that often mean the most are those that simply show you’ve paid attention -- that you don't just know what they like, you know what they love. If you have a classical music fan on your list, here are our suggestions of gifts that will be music to their ears: Under $25 The Greatest Video Game Music This newly-released – and and "immensely listenable" – album from the London Philharmonic Orchestra features music from such games as Angry Birds, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Final Fantasy and Call of Duty, among many others. Good for the young and young at heart. $9.99 (Available from Amazon) LP Picture Frame A great way for your vinyl-hoarding friends to show off their impressive – or not-so-impressive – record collections. $15 or two for $20 (Available from Urban Outfitters) What Makes It Great: Short Masterpieces, Great Composers by Rob Kapilow [Hardcover] Rob Kapilow has adapted his popular “What Makes It Great” lecture series into a book of the same name. Each of the 18 chapters explores a short work of a different composer from Vivaldi to Debussy, in roughly chronological order. A companion Web site allows you to see, hear and download each short masterpiece and all of the book's musical examples. From $19.74 (Available from Amazon)   $25-$100 Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pepin [Hardcover] French chef Jacques Pepin loves to listen to classical music in the kitchen, he said when he visited the WQXR studio. We recommend the foodies on your list enjoy his new cookbook with a glass of wine, turn on some Chopin and get chopping. From $27 (Available from Amazon) Gustav Mahler by Jens Malte Fischer [Hardcover] All 766 pages of Jens Malte Fischer’s much-praised 2003 biography of Gustav Mahler were translated into an English edition, which came out this past August in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the troubled Austrian’s death. From $31.50 (Available from Amazon) Beethoven: Complete Symphonies [5 CDs] The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra -- Germany's oldest orchestra, dating to 1743 – made these recordings in the Gewandhaus, Leipzig's concert hall, between 2007 and 2009. They're the latest in a Beethoven tradition that goes back to the composer’s own lifetime, when in 1825 it gave the first-ever performance of the entire symphony cycle. To this day, the Ninth Symphony continues to mark the end of every season at the Gewandhaus. $39.99 (Available from ArkivMusic) Lincoln Center Gift CertificateGift certificates are accepted by all of the concert halls, theaters, shops and restaurants on the Lincoln Center campus and may be applied towards the purchase of a membership.$50+ (Available from Lincoln Center) The World’s Greatest Operas [6 DVDs] This six-DVD set contains four of the most famous and most performed operas: Aida, Carmen, Die Zauberflöte and Tosca. The performances feature opera stars and conductors such as Jonas Kaufmann, Roberto Alagna and Antonio Pappano. $54.99 (Available from ArkivMusic) Wagner’s Ring Cycle [11 DVDs] Filmed at Germany’s Bayreuth Festspielhaus opera house in June and July 1991 and 1992, this historic Ring Cycle features the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Bayreuth Festival Chorus under the musical direction of Daniel Barenboim. $69.99 (Available from ArkivMusic) Dame Joan Sutherland: Complete Decca Studio Recitals [23 CDs] Decca pays tribute to Joan Sutherland - "La Stupenda" to her numerous fans - with a limited-edition CD set of her complete studio recitals. This is the first time all of Sutherland's studio recitals have been made available in a single collection. $79.99 (Available from ArkivMusic)   $100-$200 Crosley AV Room Portable USB Turntable Designed with a retro look, this portable turntable with built-in speakers not[...]

Holiday Concerts Guide 2011

Sun, 04 Dec 2011 07:13:03 -0500

If Muzak piped over store loudspeakers has you pining for Yuletide music with a bit more soul, consider these options around New York City. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Nov. 25-Dec. 31New York City BalletDavid H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, $55-$225 [Details]The unmistakable sound of the celesta, Tchaikovsky’s cue for the Sugar Plum Fairy, is just one memorable moment in George Balanchine’s classic version.   Handel's MessiahDec. 6 & 8 at 7:30 pmSaint Thomas Church, 1 West 53rd Street at Fifth Avenue, $35-$95 [Details] The Saint Thomas Choir of Men & Boys. If you can only make one of the myriad performances of Messiah taking place this month, consider the choir at Saint Thomas Church.   The Colonial Nutcracker Dec. 11 at 2 pmDance Theater in WestchesterBrooklyn College, 2900 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn $7 [Details] Dance Theatre in Westchester brings a Revolutionary War version of the famous ballet to the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.   Peter and the WolfDec. 10, 11, 16, 17, 18The Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th St., $35 [Details] Sergei Prokofiev’s music brings the characters of this story to life. Narrated by Isaac Mizrahi, George Manahan leads the Juilliard Ensemble.   A Cathedral ChristmasDec. 10 at 7:30 pmSt. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, $40-$60 [Details] Vivaldi's Gloria, the Charpentier Te Deum and antiphonal works for double choir by Gabrieli and Schütz highlight this program for choir, organ and orchestra. WQXR host Kent Tritle leads the Cathedral’s Choir.   American Ballet Theatre's NutcrackerDec. 14-30BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave.; 718-636-4100 [Details] Alexei Ratmansky’s version of the classic premiered last year to strong reviews, and this year the company has nearly doubled the number of performances.   A New Holiday Revue Dec. 15-17Rose Theater, Broadway at 60th St., Ground Floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle, The Time Warner Center, $30-$120 [Details] The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is joined by singer Kim Burrell for an evening of jazzy holiday arrangements.   My Yiddishe Chanukah: A Musical Feast for New YorkDec. 18 at 12pmWinter Garden, 200 Vesey Street, World Financial Center, FREE [Details] Artists from The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksblene under the direction of Zalmen Mlotek.   Vox Vocal Ensemble, Graham Ashton Brass EnsembleDec. 18 and 19 at 7 pmThe Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th St., FREE [Details] The rotunda, a space designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a unique setting for this annual concert.   Handel's Messiah Dec. 19 at 8pm Oratorio Society of New York Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue at 57th St., $22-$85 [Details] The Oratorio Society has been performing this piece annually since 1874, and the acoustics and ambiance of Carnegie's Stern Auditorium simply can’t be beat.   Seventh Annual Sephardic Music FestivalDec 20-27Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, $18One highlight of this week-long festival features famous Israeli musician Miki Gavrielov at Le Poisson Rouge on December 24.   Hannukah Concert: Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Band AllstarsDec. 27 at 7:30 pmThe Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, $45 [Details] A unique spin on traditional Jewish holiday music by an energetic, globe-trotting band.   Kwanzaa Celebration Dec. 30 at 7:30 pm Apollo Theater, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and Frederick Douglass Blvd. (7th and 8th avenues), $14-$16 [Details] Featuring Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, this legendary venue hosts an evening of music and dance in celebration of Kwanzaa. [...]