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.
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.|