Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Sir Thomas Beecham conducts Messiah!

There are many recordings of Messiah by Georg Friedrich Haendel,  a man who spoke little English being German serving a British King George II who disliked the English and England, spoke next to no English being the Prince of Hannover. They probably spoke German to each other, though the King had learned French as a first language.

 King George II (1683-1760)

Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759)

Sir Thomas gives us a rendition of the Messiah unlike any other, in my opinion the best one you can hear.
Unless our friend and music expert David N. can point me to a better rendition, will see what he has to say.

The recording in question is from 1959 with Jennifer Vyvyan, Soprano, Monica Sinclair, Mezzo-Soprano, the great Canadian Tenor John Vickers and equally great Bass, Giorgio Tozzi. Beecham gave this recording a tempo and he feels the words of the text which he manages to translate into a
dynamic recording.

I love hearing this recording while we are decorating the Christmas tree.

Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)

Phase one is polishing all the Christmas Tree balls, we have 30 of them and then we also have to polish the medallions of various seasonal flowers. Then put up the tree and select the ornaments to go on, there is quite the collection all very different and from various parts of the world we have visited.

What is terribly nice is that each ball has the word Christmas and the year and it always brings back memories of where we were on that year starting with 1979 in Ottawa, 1986 Mexico City, 1989 Cairo, 1993 Chicago, 1999 Warsaw, 2007 Rome.

This year the tree went up on 8 December the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic Calendar, a great spectacle we attended each year in Rome at Piazza di Spagna where the column to the Virgin stands, a column taken from a temple from antiquity and the statue itself is Venus. The Pope comes from the Vatican crosses the City in a great parade escorted by the Carabinieri and all the congregations gather in the Piazza in their various uniforms and banners. The clue of the spectacle is when the Rome Firemen (Vigili) get into their cherry picker to hoist the great garland of flowers blessed by the Holy Father to the arms of the Venus turned Virgin and Mother of God.

The monument is in front of the Royal Embassy of Spain to the Holy See on the Piazza and the Ambassador of His Most Catholic Majesty the King of Spain waives from the balcony.

We have also decided this year that for Christmas day we will go to the Café at the National Arts Centre, they have a very nice set menu. Christmas Eve will be quiet at home and have a nice dinner with our Xmas Dachshunds.

Here are some pictures.

This year Will decided to put up this paper cut model of St-Nick. We got this in Dresden or Munich many years ago but never used it, very traditional and European. I cannot remember being in Dresden for the Christmas Market, the one in Munich is fantastic.

our Nutcracker from East Germany c.1979, they do not make ones like this anymore.

The tree is up now remains to decorate it.

Here are some traditional Austrian lead decoration hand painted, a decorated tree and St-Nick on his horse made by the Wilhelm Schweizer company.

More of the W. Schweizer company work, very typical of what you see in Austria and Bavaria at Christmas time.

A fraction of what has to be polished before it is put up on the tree. Neiman Marcus still sells them.

Christmas 1979 always put at the top of the tree.

A Winter Bouquet for Will's Birthday, the white flowers are called Nerine, there is some Heather and Boronia.


  1. The silver ornaments are beautiful. I love the door decoration.

  2. So, this statue of Venus-turned-Virgin in Rome. Is she wearing a traditional Roman dress of the period? I assume that, unlike most representations of the Goddess of Love, she's not nekkid? Or is the Blessed Wreath designed to hide that?

  3. At the time of the Renaissance when the monument was created it was very common for the Catholic Church to take from ancient temples building material. The column per example, I cannot remember from which temple it came from but that is catalogue. As for the Statue same process, in ancient statues the head and the hands could easily be replaced. Then you could also add clothing since it is a bronze statue, Venus is not always represented naked but her conversion to Virgin Mary was the most common thing to do. In fact it was far easier to have the population accept this change since Venus remained popular as a goddess.

  4. So beautiful and unusual. We whittled our Christmas decorations from 10 huge tubs down to two before moving to Spain. Since getting our cats, we haven't put up a tree! So this year I'm trying to find places for ornaments currently that can't be reached (or attempted) by the cats! You've inspired me.

  5. How about little cat straightjackets for both of them. That way you could enjoy either your Xmas tree or Hanukkah bush.

  6. As I suspected you haven't any 'Cheap Christmas trash".

  7. Merry Christmas Laurent and Will from my family to yours!

    PS. I noticed two 1979 references - the DDR nutcracker and the tree ornament. Was 1979 special in some way? P.

  8. No not really just a coincidence I think, you know at my age it is difficult to remember, LOL!!!!
    Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia to you and your family.

  9. Last year at the end of the season, you posted a picture of the 'hounds' stationed like a pair of sphinx in front of the Christmas tree. Love that photo. Your pictures are always 'some of my favorite things'.

    1. thank you for the compliment. Yes there will be pictures of the Xmas puppies.