Friday, December 14, 2012

Super fantastic holiday miscellany!

This charming drawing of partridges in a pear tree was done by Andy Warhol back in his commercial art days. It and the illustration at right (which I call "Deck the legs...") come from a new title on that period of his life from Chronicle Books.
Today I invite you to share your favorite and least favorite items of Xmas music. I love Britten's Ceremony of Carols and Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors as well as "Coventry Carol," "The Holly and the Ivy" and other very old carols. I loathe "The Little Drummer Boy" and other lugubrious modern ones. Curiously, the most popular Xmas album of all time does not involve Handel's Messiah, The Chipmunks, Nat King Cole, or "White Christmas." Can you guess? (Answer after the jump.)
It being the Christmas season, thoughts may turn to Scrooge and his creator, the inimitable Boz/Charles Dickens.We are flush with Dickensia at the moment, in both books and DVDs—all of which makes for prime gift giving. I just watched the dramatized biography portion of the boxed set from the BBC that includes A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield [the latter with Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins, and Daniel Radcliffe in his very first role!). Besides wishing fervently that it had been narrated by Rupert Everett or similar instead of unphotogenic Dickens expert Peter Ackroyd (who inserted himself annoyingly in way too many period shots!), I enjoyed it immensely. Of course it made me want to read more Dickens novels and to plunge immediately into Claire Tomalin's biography, as soon as I can get my hands on it. There's also the BBC set of Bleak House and The Old Curiosity Shop, studded with great actors like Gillian Anderson and Derek Jacobi. 
Below is a version of the complete Dickens Centennial poster from The Guardian. It you drag it to your desktop, it should fit on a normal-sized piece of paper and come out with decent resolution on a home printer.
The best-selling Xmas album of all time: Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas (1984)! (Their name comes from an 18th-century German musical technique, Mannheim roller [Mannheimer Walze], a crescendo passage having a rising melodic line over an ostinato bass line.)
This illustration by Jan Marcin Szancer for a 1951 edition of Hoffmann’s Nutcracker—a perennial moneymaker for most major ballet companies—comes from a Flavorwire feature on Polish children's book illustrators.

9 comments:

  1. I seriously had no clue the album was going to be the Mannheim Steamroller one. That seems so random.

    Personally, I like Sleigh Ride.

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    1. Forgot to mention: I also have a secret guilty pleasure, Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

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    2. that sounds kind of nice! must see if it's on youtube.

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    3. ??? I think I must've missed something there.
      Christmas splits my personality in two. The good half loves Haydn's Creation.
      The bad one shimmys to Johnny Mathis.

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    4. both are good ... I applaud them both!

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  2. Warhol's "Deck the Legs..." drawing reminds me of the lamp in "A Christmas Story." Cool!!!

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    1. HA HA! That house (and the lamp) are apparently a big tourist attraction.

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  3. Thought the best seller was going to be something from Charlie Brown. Mannheim Steamroller is ok, but I prefer Trans Siberian Orchestra.

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