Why Does This Remind Me of Christmas?

December 19, 2008

With Christmas getting near, I want to share with you some music by a man who I consider to be one of the greatest Europeans, Johann Sebastian Bach.

What is the connection with Christmas? Well I don’t know exactly, maybe it’s a childhood association, or maybe it’s the fact that the music seems to glisten like Christmas tree lights, or maybe it’s the dark minor key mystery that associates it with the darkest time of the year when magical things are expected to happen?

Whatever the reason, this music always reminds me of Christmas!



Bach’s Mass in B Minor

December 13, 2008

After posting about Beethoven (as I did in the previous post) and giving the chance to listen to the entire performance of one of the greatest interpretations of his monumental 9th Symphony, I felt like continuing the classical music theme, so to speak.

No blog that claims to be about Europe could possibly be complete without at least one piece, and ideally more, by that awesome genius of counterpoint, J. S. Bach. You are in good hands here, because what you are about to hear (should you choose to click the play button) is an extract from one of the most incredible works of music in all history, the Mass in B Minor. Not only that, but this performance, by John Eliot Gardiner, is acclaimed by critics the world over.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a religious person to appreciate this music, you just need to be someone who can recognize beauty in sound.

Beethoven 9th Symphony

December 12, 2008

This is the piece of music which many people argue is the greatest of all music. It is the 9th Symphony of Beethoven. It certainly has a valid claim for consideration as the greatest. This version of it, by the conductor Herbert von Karajan, is one of the most majestic interpretations.

Bethoven himself was a great European, who, I feel sure, would have welcomed the events of the present day, regarding the unification of Europe. He was one of those who supported the ideals of the French Revolution, and when Napoleon rose to power, Beethoven believed the new leader would bring the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity to the whole continent, ushering in a new golden age of enlightenment and peace. He even dedicated his 3rd Symphony, called the Eroica (Heroic) to Napoleon. When Napoleon had himself proclaimed Emperor, Beethoven’s hopes were dashed, and he angrily scratched out the dedication. He realised that all Napoleon wanted was power, and not the welfare of the European people.

The final movement of the 9th contains the famous tune which has been adopted as the anthem of the European Union. You can hear it in the second video of Karajan’s performance, which appears below this.

Happy listening!