Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Freu Dich Erd Und Sternenzelt: Music for the Christmas Season
HALLE Macht hoch die Tur (1704);
BASQUE Gabriel’s Botschaft
FOLKSONG Es Sasen vier Engelein
Wilhelm TAUBERT (1811-91) Inmitten der Nacht;
MEDIEVAL Auf, Auf nun;
FINLAND Weihnachtsglocken (1582);
THURINGIAN MELODY Susser die Glocken nie klingen (1826);
BOHMEN Freu dich, Erd und Sterenzolt; (1526);
MELODY Maria durch ein Dornwald (c.1600);
Friedrich HIMMEL (1765-1814) Heil’ge Nacht auf Engelsschwingen;
RUSSIAN FOLKSONG Sclaf, mein Kindleich;
POLISH FOLKSONG Lu la lei Gottessohn;
FOLKSONG Schlaf wohl, du Himmelsknabe, du
Harold DARKE (1888-1976) Inmitten dustren Winters;
Johann REICHARDT (1752-1814) Heilige Nacht
The Vocal Trio
Recorded live at the Lutheran Church, Karlsruhe, December 2000.
Sonya WEISE Prelude and Fugue on ‘O little Town of Bethlehem’;
Sonya WEISE Variations on ‘O du frohliche’;
Sonya WEISE Welsh Christmas Suite;
Sonya WEISE Organ fantasy on ‘The First nowell’;
Sonya WEISE Organ Fantasy on ‘All through the night’
Played on the New Organ at the Lutheran Church, Karlsruhe by Daniel Kaiser
Recorded in November 2001 DDD
BELLA MUSICA BM 31.3065 [51.30]


This CD consists of sixteen a capella arrangements of Christmas melodies from all over Europe sung by the four female vocalists and five works for organ using Christmas tunes either as basis for variations or in the form of a more free fantasia. Everything has been skilfully if somewhat unexcitingly arranged by Sonya Weise.

The booklet notes in German only. They give six biographies, on the four female singers, Heidron Kissinger, Bettina Renaud and Maria Bucher sopranos and Irene Burger alto and on the organist Daniel Kaiser and on Sonya Weiss. There are no notes on the music and no translations of the texts. However on the back of the insert is given the traditional format of specification for the organ at the new Lutheran church in Karlsruhe. One interesting feature of this three manual instrument, rebuilt in 1993, is the presence of an eight foot English horn stop on the choir. It’s a pity that it fails to feature noticeably in any of the organ music. It is a very fine instrument however. With its interesting coupling possibilities the organ allows a considerable amount of colour and indeed power which is exploited by Daniel Kaiser.

As for the music, well it can be said fairly quickly. The arrangements are rather twee but no doubt suitable for the season. The singers are adequate, perfectly pleasant but unexciting. They lack variety of dynamics and vocal colours. The carol melodies are not particularly well known to British audiences but it is rather amusing to hear Harold Darke’s famous ‘In the bleak Midwinter’ arranged for female voices unaccompanied with much altered harmonies. Another surprise was to hear a carol found in the English ‘Carols for Choirs Book 1’. There it is known as ‘Up, Good Christian Folk and Listen’. Here it appears as ‘Weihnachtsglocken’ which I believe means Christmas-night bells.

The organ pieces written by Sonya Weise have little appeal for this listener at least. Their style is best described as poor Rheinberger. The best I can say is that if they played away whilst enjoying a Christmas meal or drink then they might be considered acceptable. Listening carefully is not particularly worth the effort. One exception is ‘O Little town of Bethlehem’. It is interesting how, a tune first noted by Vaughan Williams, and so very English, has become an international carol as Sonya Weise’s rather dark Prelude shows. I was surprised to find, on the last track, that the Welsh tune, ‘All through the night’, on which Weise has written an unprepossessing Fantasia is considered to be a Christmas Carol.

The recordings made on separate occasions are good and clear.

Gary Higginson

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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