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Christmas Rhapsody - John Bayless, Piano


Release Date: 10/05/2004 
Label:  Koch   Catalog #: 9610   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  John Francis WadeTraditionalFelix MendelssohnAntonín Dvorák,   ... 
Performer:  John Bayless
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

You may remember John Bayless as somewhat of a wizard of improvisation and clever arranging skill in his Bach Meets the Beatles and Bach on Abbey Road CDs from the 1980s. Well, he's at it again, this time applying his mastery of various piano styles and his impressive technical ability to a host of Christmas favorites, from "O come all ye faithful", "O little town of Bethlehem", and "Silent Night" to "The Christmas Song", "Have yourself a merry little Christmas", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "White Christmas". In some cases, Bayless combines several songs into a sort of medley, seamlessly blended together, sometimes with more than one melody occurring at the same Read more time.

Although each tune is clearly recognizable--no weird expressionistic musings--sometimes a non-Christmas melody ingeniously finds its way into the mix, as in the juxtaposition of the spiritual "Going Home" with "I'll be home for Christmas". Bayless works "Rudolph" and "Let it snow" into a jazzy dance, while "Santa Claus is coming to town" and its mate, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy", are given the raggy-rhythm treatment, complete with jumpy syncopations and a rash of irregular meters. "The Christmas Song" gets an appropriately reverent, relatively straightforward interpretation, the melody prominent, with lots of pop-style fills and rich-textured harmonies, leading to a big, full-bodied conclusion.

"Ave Maria" is a tastefully unadorned rendition of the famous Bach-Gounod version, while the "Winter Wonderland"/"Jingle Bells" combination is a picturesque scene of swirling snow and twinkling starlight. Bayless even finds a way to work in an old recording of his mother singing one of the pianist's childhood favorites, "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", combining it with "Away in a manger" and "What Child is This?", an indulgence that I'm sure is a memory far more precious to Bayless than it will be musically engaging for most listeners.

Perhaps the highlight of the disc is how Bayless manages to fit the tune "Amazing Grace" to the famous orchestral part of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", a bit of inspiration that the pianist has been performing since his early days as a church organist. My one complaint is that Bayless too often can't resist the opportunity to push a song a little too far, frequently ending with huge, extended, bombastic, rafter-rattling flourishes that just seem overdone. But the overall effect of this program is of happy, joyful excitement, a celebration of the "memories, the beautiful melody, and sentiment" Christmas music evokes in all who love it. The sound is a bit hard in the treble for my taste, but listeners who love a huge, full-bodied, very "present" piano, played to an inch of its life, will love this. And that "Amazing Grace" is really special.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Adeste fideles "O come, all ye faithful" by John Francis Wade
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1782; England 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Angels we have heard on high" and "Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing"."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
2. Angels we have heard on high by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Written: France 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Adeste fideles" and "Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing"."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
3. Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing" by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Adeste fideles" and "Angels we have heard on high."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
4. I'll be home for Christmas by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Symphony no 9 in E minor, Op. 95/B 178 "From the New World": Excerpt(s)."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
5. Symphony no 9 in E minor, Op. 95/B 178 "From the New World": Excerpt(s) by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; USA 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "I'll be home for Christmas."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
6. Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Haven Gillespie
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: no 3, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy."
This work was written in collaboration with J. Fred Coots.
Arranger: John Bayless. 
7. Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a: no 3, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Russia 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
8. The Christmas Song by Mel Torme
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946 
Notes: Arranger: John Bayless. 
9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Johnny Marks
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Let It Snow!."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
10. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! by Jule Styne
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
11. Ave Maria by Charles Gounod
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
Notes: Arranger: John Bayless.
This work is based on J.S. Bach's Prelude no 1 in C from 'The Well-Tempered Clavier.' 
12. O come, O come Emmanuel by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "O little town of Bethlehem" and "The first nowell."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
13. O little town of Bethlehem by Henry Walford Davies
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "O come, O come Emmanuel" and "The first nowell."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
14. The first nowell by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Written: England 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "O come, O come Emmanuel" and "O little town of Bethlehem."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
15. Winter Wonderland by Felix Bernard
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Jingle Bells."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
16. Jingle Bells by James Pierpont
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; USA 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Winter Wonderland."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
17. Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1818; Austria 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Minuit, Chrétiens "O holy night"."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
18. Minuit, Chrétiens "O holy night" by Adolphe Adam
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Silent Night."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
19. What child is this? by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Sweet little Jesus boy" and "Away in a manger."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
20. Sweet little Jesus boy by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Written: USA 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "What child is this?" and "Away in a manger."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
21. Away in a manger by William James Kirkpatrick
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "What child is this?" and "Sweet little Jesus boy."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
22. Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: Jesu bleibet meine Freude "Jesu, joy of man's desiring" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Amazing Grace."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
23. Amazing Grace by Traditional
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: Jesu bleibet meine Freude "Jesu, joy of man's desiring"."
Arranger: John Bayless. 
24. Meet Me in St. Louis: Have yourself a merry little Christmas by Hugh Martin
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Notes: Arranger: John Bayless. 
25. Holiday Inn: White Christmas by Irving Berlin
Performer:  John Bayless (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Notes: Arranger: John Bayless. 

Featured Sound Samples

Adeste fideles/Angels We Have Heard On High/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Wade/Traditional/Mendelssohn)
The Christmas Song (Torme)
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring/Amazing Grace (Bach/Traditional)

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