(RE)Tune – The Über-Classics

Posted: 12/26/2010 in (Re)Tune

While I realized that there are a number of Christmas albums that you are required to love, I also realized that there are certain songs and music from the Holidays that can’t be replaced. 

Earlier this season I took part in a “flash-mob” of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus… I realized it could no longer be called a flash mob when my roommate came home two hours before, having heard it announced at an event he was attending (not that Greg isn’t cool like that, but vocal music and the choir scene isn’t his strong suit).

The tempo is really slow and it sounds more like it is being performed by a militia rather than a choir, but it was fun nonetheless (Greg, Zac and I are upstairs on the left in the video):

So as you can tell that wasn’t the best performance of the Hallelujah Chorus, but with that being said I think it as well as the following must be considered as Über-Classics when it comes to Christmas music:

Sing We Christmas: Chanticleer

There isn’t much more classic than carols. These Christmas hymns, some of which originate as early as the fourth century, create the backbone for vocal music during this season. While Silent Night and In the Bleak Midwinter might be more familiar to you than Es ist ein Ros entsprungen or O Magnum Mysterium, Chanticleer performs these songs with a crystal clear brilliance that is reminiscent of a star filled sky over a snow covered field. Austere and absolutely breathtaking. Let it Snow is also a fantastic collection of carols by Chanticleer as well.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker: Simon Rattle

Anywhere you turn there is probably a local performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. It is so easy to become accustomed to the admirable efforts of a local orchestra as they accompany 8-year-old Sugar Plum Fairies, but Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic remind us of why this suite has captured the imagination for so many years. There are many awesome recordings, but if you get a chance check out this new performance; it breathes such amazing life and excitement into this Christmas favorite.

Handel’s Messiah: John Rutter

As I said earlier: “the tempo is really slow and it sounds more like it is being performed by a militia rather than a choir,” many performances of the Messiah can be lackluster at best.  I love Rutter because he knows how to bring the vocal performance to such a remarkable level of excellence. The music dances as Rutter conducts the Cambridge Singers and the Royal Philharmonic. This is a great two-hour listen, especially if you are only familiar with the Hallelujah Chorus. Handel wrote a transcendent piece of music and Rutter does an amazing job reminding us of that.

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