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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Christ ist Geboren: Festive Christmas with the Boys choir ‘capella vocalis’
Carl THIEL (1862-1939)

Es sungen drei Engel [02:20]
Der Morgenstern ist aufgedrungen [01:22]
Johann Heinrich LÜTZEL (1823-1899)

Machet die Tore weit [02:09]
Hermann RUCK (1897-1983)

Maria durch ein’ Dornwald ging [03:25]
Siegfried STROHBACH (b. 1929)

O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf [02:04]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [01:53]
Es kommt ein Schiff geladen [01:42]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen [02:11]
Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809-1847)

Gott sei Dank durch alle Welt [01:58]
W. HERRMANN (1868-?)

O schlafe, schlafe, göttlicher Knabe [03:02]
Franz GRUBER (1787-1848), arr. Hanns MIESSNER (1877-1940)

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht [03:01]
trad., arr. Arnold MÖLLER

Kolenden (Polish Christmas carols, in German translation):
In stiller Mittnacht [03:26]
Christus ist geboren [02:22]
Triumphe [01:44]
Gestern abend, Brüder [01:54]
Hirten zogen mit Gesang [02:22]
Einsamkeit hüllet [02:15]
Luleise, Jesulein [02:11]
Lasst uns alle ziehn [01:20]
In der Krippe [01:20]
Hirten bleibet doch steh’n [02:08]
In Bethlehem heut [02:01]
Jesus, kleiner Knabe [01:47]
An dem Tag [02:42]
Neujahr zieht her [02:53]
Capella Vocalis/Eckhard Weyand
Recorded in February 2001 at Peter- und Paulkirche, Mössingen, Germany.
HÄNSSLER CD 98.433 [55:02]
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Very few choirs have never made a Christmas CD. And the repertoire on this kind of disc suggest that they are made for ‘family and friends’ rather than the general market. It isn’t easy to find repertoire which hasn’t been recorded umpteen times before. This recording is no exception in that in contains familiar German hymns, like ‘Machet die Tore weit’, ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ and ‘Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen’. But here most of them are sung in unfamiliar arrangements, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. The booklet fails to give any information about the arrangers, so I can’t tell who Carl Thiel, Siegfried Strohbach or Hermann Ruck are. The settings have one thing in common: the harmonic language, even of the 20th century arrangements, is modest. No experiments here. Only one setting dates from about the time the original was composed: ‘Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen’ by Michael Praetorius.

The second half of the programme contains Polish carols in German translation. It builds a nice contrast to the first half. Many German songs made it into German hymnals and were sung in church. But the Polish songs are in the tradition of ‘folk music’, with their dance rhythms and their fantasy stories about Joseph and Mary and the shepherds.

The capella vocalis is a relatively young choir of boys and men, that was founded in 1992. The homogeneity it has developed in less than 10 years is admirable. Boys and men can be heard here separately, and both groups are equally good. I don’t know how many singers the choir has in total, but here fifty singers are involved. In addition, two violins, viola, cello and double bass are added in a number of carols.

As much as the qualities of the choir can be admired, I found it hard to listen to the disc in one sitting. There is a lack of ‘personality’ and colour in the singing. The interpretation of these carols is a little monotonous, and there isn’t very much differentiation in tempo. The German hymns and carols are the best part. In Lützel’s setting of verses from the 24th Psalm (‘Machet die Tore weit’) the choir is dialoguing with a small ensemble of singers and there is also the usual contrast between high and low voices in the line: "Who is the King of glory?" – "It is the Lord Zebaoth".

The chorale setting by Praetorius, though, could have been better articulated on the basis of the text.

The Polish songs are disappointing. In my view, translations of carols like these generally don’t work. In these ‘popular’ songs there is such a close connection between the original language and culture and the melodies, that music and text don’t quite match in a translation. But what is worse is that the original rhythms are not very well realised. The lively rhythm of ‘An dem Tag’ is turned here into a kind of military drone. The lightheartedness of the original has completely disappeared.

This sample illustrates what is wrong with this recording: it is all very serious and lacks joy and cheerfulness. I have heard the Polish Nightingales sing their ‘own’ carols much better. I also find the choir too large and the sound of the strings obtrusive.

The recording is good, but the texts in the booklet – German and English – contain too many printing errors. The lack of information on the arrangers and the music does not help either.

To sum up: this is a good choir, although a little bland, but in part it chose partly the wrong repertoire here.

Johan van Veen


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C. THIEL:
Es sungen drei Engel

J.H LUTZEL: Machet die Tore weit

H. RUCK: Maria durch ein' Dornwald ging

S. STROHBACH: O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf

S. STROHBACH: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

S. STROHBACH: Es kommt ein Schiff geladen

C. THIEL: Der Morgenstern ist aufgedrungen

M. PRAETORIUS: Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen

BARTHOLDY F. MENDELSSOHN: Gott sei Dank durch alle Welt

W. HERRMANN: O schlafe, schlafe, gottlicher Knabe

F. GRUBER: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

A. MOLLER: Kolenden Polish Christmas carols:

In stiller Mittnacht

Christus ist geboren

Triumphe

Gestern abend, Bruder

Hirten zogen mit Gesang

Einsamkeit hullet

Luleise, Jesulein

Lasst uns alle ziehn

In der Krippe

Hirten bleibt doch steh'n

In Bethlehem heut

Jesus, kleiner Knabe

An dem Tag

Neujahr zieht her

 



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