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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Ceremony of Carols, op.28 arr. For SATB and Harp by Julius Harrison [21:50] (1942 arr. 1955): Procession [1:37]; Wolcum Yole [1:25]; There is no Rose [2:19]; That yönge Child [1:43]; Balulalow [1:15]; As Dew in Aprille [0:58]; This Little babe [1:23]; Interlude [3:45]; In Freezing Winter [3:22]; Spring Carol [1:01]; Deo Gracias [1:06]; Recession [1:36]
Arr. Jaroslav KRČEK (b.1939)

Old European Christmas Carols: Adeste Fideles [3:21]; Dormi, dormi bel Bambin [1:55]; Ding, Dong! Merrily on High [1:47]; Es ist Ein Ros’ entsprungen [2:39]; Vstávajte, pastieri [1:54]; Lulajźe Jezuniu [3:23]; Los animals ante el nacimento [2:01]; Žežulka z lesa vylitla [1:42]; Deck the Halls [1:12]; Les anges dans nos campagnes [2:06]; Byla cesta, byla uŝlapaná [3:34]; A vent-i-cinc de desembre (Fum, fum, fum) [2:06]; Stille Nacht [2:43]

Hana Müllerová-Jouzová (harp), Miroslav Kejmar (flugelhorn)
Boni Pueri Czech Boys Choir
Musica Bohemica Praha/Jakub Martinec
Recorded 27-29 August 2004, Domovina Studio, Prague. DDD
ARCODIVA UP 0070-2 231 [54:08]


This CD should be high up on the wish-list of all music-lovers this Christmas. It is full of interest, and also strikes a great balance between the familiar and the novel. In the interpretations of Boni Pueri with Musica Bohemica, even the most well-worn traditional favourites such as ‘Adeste Fideles’ or ‘Ding, Dong Merrily’ come up sounding fresh and lively.

But the CD opens with a welcome addition to the catalogue, namely Julius Harrison’s 4-part SATB (or more accurately TrATB) version of ‘A Ceremony of Carols’, made in 1955, thirteen years after Britten’s original. Any arranger would approach a work of such perfection with trepidation, but Harrison has done a superb job, and has, in my opinion anyway, sacrificed little of the original’s beauty. Britten’s lightness is happily preserved, especially with the young tenor and bass voices of Boni Pueri.

Such is this Czech choir’s natural musicality and the beauty of their voices that I found it easy to accept their occasionally idiosyncratic pronunciation of the English language. ‘Balulalow’ brings a breathtakingly beautiful solo contribution from Jakob Kubin (who fortunately graces a number of other tracks) and a bonus is the sensitive harp playing of Hana Müllerová-Jouzová, who gives a haunting interpretation of the Interlude on track 8. The only little reservation comes in track 7, ‘This Little Babe’, where the boys do not quite manage to deliver the tricky words and rhythms at the very fast tempo set by conductor Jakub Martinec. Unusually, the harp-accompanied version of the Processional and Recessional that frame the piece is used, and no attempt has been made by the production team to suggest the approach and departure of the voices, which seems a pity.

Jaroslav’s Krček’s arrangements of thirteen ‘Old European Christmas Carols’ bring more delights. They have the virtue of being straightforward harmonically and texturally, thereby allowing the simple beauty of the melodies to be enjoyed. As well as the familiar carols, we have some less well-known ones which will captivate listeners who, like me, love the magic of Christmas music but are always looking out for something new. The ‘Polish Lullaby’ is utterly charming, as is the Czech carol ‘Žežulka z lesa vylitla’, better known as ‘The Cuckoo’. In this one, as elsewhere, the brightly coloured folk instruments of Musica Bohemica make an unforgettable contribution, with a quail and some turtle-doves joining our friendly cuckoo.

The disc is completed by an irresistible ‘Stille Nacht’, rendered not at the usual slow tempo, but as a swaying waltz with harp and zither – the Angel Gabriel meets the Third Man! Buy this and give it to your Best Friend – you’ll be rewarded with eternal gratitude.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

see also article by Len Mullenger



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