In those long and languorous hours of Christmas afternoon, when the turkey lies demolished and the Queen has said her piece, there’s little left to do but drink and snooze.
The children’s toys are all played out. Your parents’ bracing walk has left them drained. The hours you spent last night in wrapping, writing, basting, boiling, decorating and displaying were not in vain, for all are quite, quite sated. Here, then, are my recommendations for those lazy hours until supper: a mixture of music, poetry and interviews to enthral and delight while you digest the morning’s labours.
Begin with Liszt’s Weinachtsbaum, a suite of 12 pieces for the piano. It was written in 1873-74, revised in 1874-76, and first performed on Christmas Day 1881 for its dedicatee, Liszt’s granddaughter Daniela von Bülow. Several of the pieces, such as the second, third and fourth of the set, are based on Christmas carols. Others, especially the last three, are autobiographical, describing people, places and scenes from life. The music is typical of Liszt’s late period: it eschews virtuosity in favour of harmonic exploration, rhythmic variation and subtle dynamic gradation. The set was first recorded in 1951 by Alfred Brendel for SPA – incidentally, his debut recording – which performance has not yet been bettered.
Follow this with a selection from the Desert Island Discs archive, available on the Radio 4 website. One could spend days flicking through this quite exceptionally rich catalogue, but to save you that trouble I would recommend the following:
• Sir Oliver Millar (June 4, 1977)
• Lord Dacre of Glanton (August 21, 1988)
• AN Wilson (April 30, 1983)
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