sat 25/10/2014

Christmas

Downton Abbey Christmas Special, ITV / The Trachtate Middoth, BBC Two

A year ago it was all so different. Lady Mary gave birth and on his way home from the delivery suite Cousin Matthew steered his vintage soft-top into a tree trunk. There's rather less to report from Downton Abbey (***) this Christmas and the Daily...

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Yuletide Scenes 6: Journey of the Magi

It was the fate of Benozzo Gozzoli (c 1422-1497) to be a contemporary of the immortals. A merry journeyman dauber, his talents were overshadowed in his lifetime and are overlooked now. He had a good start in life, working for both Fra Angelico and...

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Christmas Oratorio, Trinity College Choir, OAE, Layton, St John's Smith Square

Not every Yuletide fixture need be commercial and routine. Certainly St John’s annual Christmas Festival packs them in, but why wouldn’t it when the voices for the last two events, backed up by no less than the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment...

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Yuletide Scenes 5: Winter

Russia is the largest country on earth, unimaginably vast. Its people naturally have a great attachment to their country – and its landscape – in spite of their turbulent history, and in the late 19th century painters portrayed with deep feeling...

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Listed: The 12 Derangements of Christmas

We at The Arts Desk are as fond as the next person of swans-a-swimming, partridges and pear-trees, not to mention gold rings, but be honest: 'tis already the season to be jolly sick and tired of all those knee-jerk compilations of Slade, sleighbells...

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Yuletide Scenes 4: Nursery (Christmas Stockings)

Even by his own eerie-peculiar standards, this is a perturbingly odd painting by that gifted English eccentric Stanley Spencer. It’s the night before Christmas and Christmas stockings hang from each bed frame: in this case, long rubber boots and...

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Yuletide Scenes 3: Winter Sea

There’s movement towards a walk after lunch, but by the time everyone’s hummed and hawed about where they might go, rubbed their bellies after one too many forcemeat balls and argued about who put the Guardian Quiz where, it’s already dark and there...

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Yuletide Scenes 2: The Adoration of the Kings

Jan Gossaert’s The Adoration of the Kings, painted in 1510-15, is a sumptuous, richly detailed and even, to us today, slightly hilarious painting. It’s the large central panel of a Flemish altarpiece which includes practically every motif of the...

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Yuletide Scenes 1: A Scene on the Ice near a Town

The term “snow day” may have been coined with the most recent spate of cold winters in mind, encapsulating the modern-day, not to mention British, consequences of winter weather, but Hendrick Avercamp’s Seventeenth-century “snow day”, painted in...

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L'Enfance du Christ, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Roth, Barbican

For seasonal fare that’s also profound, few pre-Christmas weekends in London can ever have been richer than this one. Hearts battered by John Adams’ nativity oratorio El Niño last night, one hoped for more soothing medicine this afternoon in the...

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El Niño, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall

John Adams’ millennial conflagration of musical poems about childbirth, destruction and the divine made manifest not only served as a seasonal farewell and a transcendent epilogue to the Southbank’s year of 20th-century music The Rest is Noise; it...

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CD: Erasure - Snow Globe

There's something about the partnership of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell that seems to automatically generate sweetness. This collection of half originals and half Christmas classics is really quite dark, quite a bitter look at winter and the Christmas...

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