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CHRISTMAS DOWNLOADS SUPPLEMENT (DECEMBER, 2008)

 

A few downloads of Christmas-related music arrived too late for inclusion in the December Roundup and I didn’t want to leave them till January.

 

Charpentier : In nativitatem Domini canticum & Messe de minuit pour Noël First let me recommend a splendid bargain from Amazon, who have recently extended their download facilities to the UK.  If you don’t already possess Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER’s Messe de Minuit, Noëls sur les Instruments and In Nativitatem Domini Canticum on Erato/Warner, it’s available from amazon.co.uk for a mere £2.79 in 256k mp3 sound.  I haven’t heard the download because I own the CD, but I have made two other downloads from this site and am more than happy with the mp3 sound – preferable to downloads from Warner’s own site which can be burned only with Windows Media Player.  Amazon downloads transfer themselves effortlessly to iTunes if you have it installed.  One word of caution, however – the original CD is available in a 4-CD bundle with other Christie/Erato recordings of Charpentier’s beautiful music on 2564 617582 at an unbelievably low price (around £15-20 for the set).  If you like the Christmas music, you’ll almost certainly want the rest and Amazon can help here, too: the other three recordings are also available at £2.79.

 

Another very recommendable £2.79 download from Amazon offers A Mediterranean Christmas: Songs of celebration from Spain, Provence, Italy & the Middle East, 1200-1900, performed by The Boston Camerata/Joel Cohen.  I need only refer you to Glyn Pursglove’s review of the parent disc, which appeared a few short years ago at full price (2564-62560-2): I agree with him entirely that this is a ‘life-enhancing CD.’  Short of having this in wma or another lossless format, the 256k mp3 sound is very acceptable indeed.  Both these Amazon downloads are strongly recommended – but so are the parent CDs.

 

I’ve already recommended a Naxos album of Leroy Anderson’s festive music in my main December Download review, but some may prefer to have most of the Christmas music on that recording spread over the two final volumes in Naxos’s Anderson series.  These are the same recommendable performances by the BBC Concert Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin as those on Sleigh Ride and other Holiday Favourites (8.559621 – the CD is available only in North America but the download is widely available, from classicsonline, eMusic, passionate, etc.). 

Leroy Anderson: Orchestral Music 4 (8.559381) offers the Irish Suite, Scottish Suite and Alma Mater and ends with the 9-minute Christmas Festival.  Perhaps the highlight of this recording is Anderson’s beautiful arrangement of McDowell’s To a Wild Rose, showing his mastery of orchestration.  I obtained both volumes in 320k mp3 sound from classicsonline and found them both very acceptable sonically.  In case you missed the news, classicsonline are now committed to 320k and will make available 320k replacements in due course to those who purchased earlier 192k versions.  I’ve asked what the time-table for this is likely to be, but haven’t yet received a reply.

 

Orchestral Music 5 (8.559382) couples music from the failed musical Goldilocks, some of it recorded for the first time ever, with the 11-minute woodwind Suite of Carols.  As performed here, with Kim Crisswell and William Dazeley adding their vocal support to the BBC Concert Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin, it’s hard to understand why Anderson failed with Goldilocks where Bernstein succeeded in crossing the classical/musical divide.  If you prefer Anderson’s Christmas music in smaller chunks, these two recordings provide an equally enjoyable way to obtain it.  If you want the CDs, rather than the downloads, and you don’t live in North America, you’ll have no choice.

 

Incidentally, for lovers of vintage recordings, classicsonline have several Leroy Anderson albums from the 1950s in their Naxos Historical Archive at £1.99.  Anderson himself conducts A Christmas Festival (rather more briskly than Slatkin) and other Christmas music on 9.80765 – only 45 minutes and a dull cover, but who’s complaining at the price?  (Not available, I assume, in North America and other parts of the world where copyright runs for more than 50 years.)

 

A Carus recording, Christmas in the Dresden Frauenkirche (83.170) also comes from classicsonline in very acceptable 320k sound which does ample justice to the fine recorded sound.  (Or 21 tracks from eMusic at a lower bit-rate.)  All the music is by Gottfried HOMILIUS, who may have been a Bach pupil.  It’s a very attractive programme, the second volume of a series devoted to Homilius’ canatas, well performed by very competent soloists with the Körnerscher Singverein and Dresdener Instrumental-concert under Peter Kopp.  For further details, see Johan van Veen’s strong recommendation.

 

There are several ways to obtain Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, Op.6/8.  A Linn recording and download (linnrecords.com, CKD012) offers it alongside the Pachelbel Canon and Fugue, Albinoni’s Adagio (the spurious Giazotto arrangement) and Concerti Grossi by Handel (Op.3/2) and Vivaldi (Op.3/11) in performances by Musica da Camera/Robert King.  Recommended to those who don’t want the complete Corelli Op.6 (but who wouldn’t?) or would like an alternative – it’s the kind of music which lends itself to a variety of interpretations and the one presented here is very attractive.  (Very good 320k mp3 or lossless versions.)

 

Christmas Music from Medieval Hungary My final recommendation takes us back to the medieval period with Christmas Music from Medieval Hungary performed by Anonymous 4.  The adjective ‘sublime’ is rather over-worked in reviews of this group, but it is wholly appropriate here.  If you go for only one of these recordings, try this one – 20 tracks from eMusic or £4.74 from iTunes in their superior 256k ‘plus’ format.  (Or £4.89 from Amazon, also at 256k.)  It shares the dull and unimaginative covers of all Harmonia Mundi’s Classical Express series but that’s my only complaint.  (HCX395 7139).

 

Merry Christmas listening.

 

Brian Wilson





 


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