From Beethoven’s Ninth (aka the Theme to Die Hard) to Greensleeves – the tradition of Christmas music is a long and rich one. In honour of the holidays, we’ve put together a playlist for your listening pleasure. Listen to highlights below, or hear the full list on Spotify.
In Dulci Jublio
A favourite Christmas carol for several centuries, the original version of In Dulci Jublio was written in a text that contained a mixture of both Latin and German. The first line begins in Latin, ‘In dulci jubilo’ (In sweet rejoicing), followed in German by ‘nun singet und seid froh!’ (now sing and be glad!); the two languages continue alternating throughout the piece. It has since been translated into English, with many choirs performing a version that featuring Italian but substituting the German for English words.
Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Greensleeves
There is much debate about the origin of Greensleeves, however it is undoubtedly very old, as evidenced by the fact it is referenced to not once but twice in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. It’s been thought to be have been associated with Christmas and New Year since the 17th century, and by 19th century many printed collections of Christmas carols included a version of the song, with its famous refrain ‘On Christmas Day in the morning’. This version is a reinvention of the famous theme by English composer Vaughan Williams.
Corelli – Christmas Concerto (Op. 6 No. 8)
From the Baroque era, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto remains a repertoire favourite, even though there are no identifiable Christmas references until the final movement. The work concludes with a beautiful and serene Pastorale, a dance that bears reference to the shepherds who visited the manger in Bethlehem on the first Christmas. It’s stunning Adagio is also known to film audiences through its appearance in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite: Waltz of the Flowers
The orchestral suite from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet is one of the composer’s most popular works, while the ballet itself is an enduring a holiday season favourite. This video features Bramwell Tovey with the Vancouver Symphony performing Waltz of the Flowers, one of the most famous pieces from the suite.
Beethoven – Symphony No.9 (Die Hard)
Set in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, Die Hard is in many ways the anti-Christmas movie. Amidst explosions, non-stop action, outrageous one-liners and evil (so evil!) bad guys, a world weary cop does battle to the music of…Beethoven’s Ninth. And it works. The irony that a centuries-old masterpiece inspired by peace and the universal brotherhood of mankind, is being used to accompany a film about a modern terrorist threat is not lost…
This fan-made trailer demonstrates how the innate drama of this famous work hilariously adds to the onscreen action (we recommend starting from the two minute mark).