> Remember Bethlehem Carols MET CD 1044 [AAS]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Remember Bethlehem
Carols for a New Millennium

Howard GOODALL Remember Bethlehem
Alan RIDOUT Snows the land cover
Peter WHITE One cold dark night
John MADDEN Lute Book Lullaby
Stephen DARLINGTON Jacob’s Ladder
Arnold BAX God is born
Malcolm WILLIAMSON Dawn Carol
Howard GOODALL Romance of the Epiphany
Michael MULLINAR In the bleak midwinter
Charles IVES Little star of Bethlehem
Howard GOODALL Der Wind auf leeren Strassen
Eric ROUTLEY Entre les boeufs et l’âne
Sebastian FORBES There is no rose
Peter WHITE Shepherd’s Carol
Arnold BAX In the manger
Andrew GANT What child is this?
John MADDEN Good King Wenceslas
Lavinio VIRGILI Ninna-Nanna a Gesû bambino
Herbert HOWELLS Come sing and dance
Howard GOODALL Love divine
Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford/Stephen Darlington
Recorded in Christ Church Cathedral, 27-29 June 2000
METRONOME MET CD 1044 [70:10]


Experience Classicsonline

Too late for this Christmas, certainly, but here is a disc to mark down for next year, especially if you are a music director looking to broaden your repertoire.

A generously-timed programme is introduced somewhat misleadingly as ‘a collection of new popular carols for Christmas sung in the cathedral choral tradition.’ New most of them are, and many deserve to become popular, but ‘new’ and ‘popular’ are surely contradictions in terms. Nor are they exactly typical of the ‘cathedral choral tradition’: since when did the piano play such a prominent accompanying role in a cathedral? Personally, I find the piano an unsatisfactory substitute for the organ in choral music, and here it is particularly dull, as in One cold dark night (sample 1). Moreover, when the organ is used, it is far too reticent. And one will listen in vain for the spacious, soaring Anglican ‘cathedral sound’. This is not the fault of the performers, but Christ Church is one of the country’s smallest cathedrals and some adjustment should have been made to compensate for its dead acoustic. Finally, I have to say that the term ‘carol’ is somewhat elastic: Wesley’s Love divine … a ‘carol’?

It speaks volumes for the disc, therefore, that despite all these reservations I have no hesitation in warmly recommending it – for its widely ranging repertoire and consistently high standard of performance. It’s good to find one of Malcolm Williamson’s richly harmonised pieces – Dawn Carol – included (as in his setting of the Alleluia: sample 2), Stephen Darlington’s Jacob’s Ladder, two highly attractive if not particularly original carols by Peter White (a composer new to me) and Sebastian Forbes’s There is no rose – the disc’s much the most harmonically adventurous track. I particularly enjoyed four fluent and colourful settings by Howard Goodall, notably the jazzy Romance of the Epiphany (sample 3) and his ripe music to Love divine: it’s high time that John Rutter faced some competition!

By today’s standards the accompanying booklet is woefully inadequate: true, the words of every carol are given, but there is no information whatsoever about the composers.


Adrian Smith


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