After years of writing songs about his father, Bruce Springsteen finally wrote one about his mother. Called "The Wish," it's a tribute to the woman who held the family together and who bought him his first guitar one Christmas, though they had little money.
The first verse ends:
On top of a Christmas tree shines one beautiful star
And lying underneath it a brand new Japanese guitar.
It's one of my favorite Christmas songs, though you won't find it with our Christmas CDs, but on Springsteen's Tracks album, located in the Oversize CD collection.
There's a lot of great music perfect for the Christmas season that isn't cataloged as Christmas music, most of which is part of our classical music collection.
Below are some CDs worth checking out.
In the Ballet Section:
The Nutcracker, Op. 71: A Ballet in Two Acts. This is the complete ballet. It includes the "hits" from the suite and more.
Essential Ballet contains selections from the Nutcracker.
Check out The Nutcracker Suite for Guitar for Steven Pasero's take on this Christmas chestnut.
In the Oratorios* section:
Handel's Messiah, which narrates the life of Christ in condensed form, is his most popular oratorio, and with good reason. Rock out to the Hallelujah chorus in the comfort of your own home (with your stereo turned up to 11, for you Spinal Tap fans).
Messiah: The Dream Cast. Selections from Handel's much-loved work performed by Kiri Te Kanawa, Leontyne Price, Jerry Hadley, Bryn Terfel and more.
A Met Messiah. Selections from Handel's Messiah performed by greats like Marian Anderson, Joan Sutherland and Jon Vickers.
Christmas Oratorio by Bach. NPR calls this "one of the most joyful and sumptuous works of Johann Sebastian Bach." Composed of six cantatas** for six different services between Christmas and epiphany, and sung in German.
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248. Another recording of the above, this one performed by the Failoni Chamber Orchestra for Hungarian Radio in 1992.
In the Orchestra section:
The CD entitled simply Peter Tchaikovsky contains the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71, which is the better-known, shortened version of the Nutcracker. It includes the Waltz of the Flowers, the Arabian Dance, the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy and more.
In the Piano section:
Martha Argerich's recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 also includes a charming arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite for two pianos.
In the Religious section:
Chant Noel: Chants for the Holiday Season. Want a change from the usual Christmas fare? Check out this recording of Gregorian chant and more performed by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.
Marian Anderson. This recording by one of the great contraltos of the 20th century includes both classical sacred music--excerpts from cantatas and oratorios--and spirituals.
Sacred Songs. Renee Fleming can sing just about anything--and sing it gloriously. Check out her interpretations of Ave Maria--the CD includes Bach's Ave Maria as well as Schubert's--plus excerpts from Handel's Messiah and more.
In the Vocal Section:
Mad About Angels: The Greatest Stars, The Greatest Voices. While not exclusively Christmas music, Mad About Angels features "Heavenly Music" to elevate the spirit.
*oratorio: "a musical composition for voices and orchestra, telling a religious story" (The American Heritage Dictionary of New Cultural Literacy.)
**cantata: "a musical setting of a text, esp. a religious text, consisting of arias, duets, and choruses, interspersed with recitatives" (The American Heritage Dictionary of New Cultural Literacy).