Favourite Carol

Henry Litolff 1818 - 1891

Henry Litolff 1818 - 1891

Goodness christmas is expensive, forget the turkey, we are going to be lucky to have cabbage soup,  The problem is that one does tend to buy oneself the odd present in the mix.  Carols and christmas songs are being played everywhere you care to listen and whether it is sung by The Pogues or Slade to a variety of choirs.  But my favourite carol of all is 'O Holy Night'.  The main problem with this carol is that it seems to be everybody's favourite and as such more often than not it is completely ruined by cross-over artists.  Without sounding like too much of a music snob or a purist I think it should be sung by a choir, so here it is sung beautifully by King's College Cambridge on YouTube.   

Should you have the need to escape over Christmas, then try listening to these piano works by Henry Litolff called Concerto Symphonique.  The recording I recommend by Peter Donohoe contains Nos 2 & 4.  It is very rare that these works are recorded as a whole because the Scherzo from No 4 has become well known as a stand alone piece and is often recorded as such.  Although the Scherzo is a fabulous piece, and a huge challenge for any pianist, the other movements should not be missed and if anyone needs convincing of the composer's pianist credentials, he was the dedicatee of Liszt's first piano concerto.  High praise!  Here is the Scherzo on YouTube.      

Peter Donohoe Photographer: Sussie Ahlberg

Peter Donohoe
Photographer: Sussie Ahlberg

Born in London in 1818 into a very poor family, Henry Litolff entered the workforce as a child.  He had the good fortune to work in a piano factory where he began to play the firm's instruments.  At the age of twelve he began studying under the eminent Ignaz Moscheles.  The tuition lasted until he was 17 at which point he eloped to France with his 16 year old bride.   He ended up having three divorces and four weddings with his last being at the age of 55 when his bride was 17, she lasted the course.  At the peak of his career he bowed to deafening applause but by the time he died he was all but forgotten about.  Posterity remembers him through a single work - the Scherzo from his Concerto Symphonique No 4 and it has never fallen out of fashion.

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Posted on December 13, 2015 .