Thanksgiving’s feeding frenzy has slowed to a crawl, the traffic at the mall is speeding up to a crawl, and now it’s time to concentrate on the music of the season. The KSO’s November edition of the Chamber Classics series has the Knoxville Chamber Chorale joining the Chamber Orchestra for a program of light Christmas favorites. The KSO’s use of the Bijou for a concert of seasonal music is the first of its kind, and the response has been such that I must say, both proudly and regretfully, that the show is sold out!
The first half of the show boasts some essential chamber orchestra works, including Mozart’s German Dance No. 3 (the “Sleighride” portion is translated from the German “Schlittenfahrt”), Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves, Corelli’s timeless “Christmas” Concerto, and Les Patineurs, “The Skaters’ Waltz,” by Emil Waldteufel. Of these, only the Vaughan Williams has any obvious melodic link to a present-day Christmas melody (What Child Is This?), but the rest of the works have attained elite status through their titles and their utter charm. Corelli’s Concerto VIII, Fatto per la notte di natale is a Baroque concerto grosso masterpiece on a par with Bach’s Brandenburgs. It’s not a “concerto” in the sense of having in-your-face virtuosity, it’s just that in the Baroque period, a multi-movement work was apt to be called a concerto if an orchestra was involved. Among Corelli’s strengths are his beautifully clean melodies and his use of “suspensions:” the alternately dissonant and consonant hanging violin weave that is so deliciously suspenseful. It is also remarkable how he makes minor-key music sound so joyful.
The Chorale will join us on the second half, with some beautiful John Rutter carol arrangements, Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Handel’s For Unto Us a Child Is Born. The Chorale will shine a cappella with the zany Jingle Bells Fantasy and an arrangement of Away in a Manger that is sure to melt your face. Hope to see you there, 2:30 at the Bijou, Sunday, November 29. (TODAY!)