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Impressions of Christmas
Musical footsteps in the snow
A musical view of Christmas and the time of snow with contributions from choirs, orchestras, children, instrumentalists and carol singers.
The time of winter, the time of snow': an elegant album of music to complement the beautiful painting by Childe Hassam which we have selected for our front cover. New York's Fifth Avenue has never looked snowier! We begin with a lovely song by Bob Chilcott, sung by a children's choir. This sets the cold and snowy mood, which continues with the stillness of Debussy's 'Footsteps in the snow', one of his best-loved piano pieces, played here on a Broadwood piano from the second decade of the twentieth century, almost a contemporary of the date of the composition.
A sequence of nineteenth-century music follows. Sir John Goss was organist at St Paul's cathedral in London. He and HJ Gauntlett were amongst the leaders of the revival of Christmas music which had begun in the middle of the century. Goss's piece, 'See amid the winter's snow' is an inspired piece of Victoriana, as is Gauntlett's 'Once in royal', which is performed here in the now traditional way, with a solo first verse, the choir joining in later and gradually increasing the musical intensity as the carol progresses. Tchaikovksy's 'Waltz of the Snowflakes' is taken from 'The Nutcracker', an atmospheric ballet frequently staged around Christmas time, since it features fantasy, imagination and toys.
After Schumann's depiction of Father Christmas (or 'Knecht Ruprecht') three more traditional songs and carols lead us to the suitably grand finale of the album: Adam's 'Cantique de Noël', played on the magnificent organ in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford.
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