CHRISTMAS DOWNLOADS 2009
Old World Christmas
Traditional In Dulci Jubilo [1:00]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571 - 1621)
In Dulci Jubilo à 2 [1:42]; In Dulci Jubilo à 3 [2:16]; In Dulci Jubilo à 4 [1:00]
Traditional Resonet in laudibus [1:18]
Christian ERBACH Resonet in Laudibus à 4 [1:56]
Orlande de LASSUS (1532 - 1594) Resonet in Laudibus à 5 [4:15]
Traditional: Preter rerum seriem [1:36]
JOSQUIN Des Prés Praeter rerum seriem [6:39]
Traditional Conditor alme siderum [3:50]
William BYRD Puer natus est à 4 [8:13]
Traditional O Sapientia [1:02]
William HORWOOD Magnificat secundi toni à 5 [14:49]
Robert RAMSEY O Sapientia à 5 [2:35]
Traditional Quem vidistis pastores [1:00]
Cipriano de RORE Quem vidistis pastores à 7 [3:47]
Traditional Alma redemptoris mater [2:12]
Johannes OCKEGHEM Alma redemptoris mater à 4 [5:14]
William BYRD Reges Tharsis et insulae à 4 [4:18]
Pomerium/Alexander Blachly – rec. 1996. DDD.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ARCHIV 474 5572 [68:42] - from passionato.com (mp3)
This is a delightful recording to get us started. Its strongest point is the inclusion of traditional settings, beginning with the macaronic hymn In dulci jubilo and three settings of it by Michael Praetorius. The programme first appeared in 1997 with the title Creator of the Stars, the English translation of the traditional hymn Conditor alme siderum (track 11), one of the few traditional tunes which seems not to have received a renaissance elaboration. The present reincarnation dates from 2003.
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6–1594)
Alma redemptoris mater [4:07]; Canite tuba [6:33]; Deus tu conversus [3:26] ;
Hodie Christus natus est [2:20]; Missa Hodie Christus Natus Est [25:53];
O magnum mysterium [6:45]; Tui sunt cœli [2:39]; O admirabile commercium [3:22];
Christe, redemptor omnium [7:48]; Magnificat primi toni [14:33]
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker
rec. Westminster Cathedral, London, 10–13 February 2003. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
HYPERION CDA67396 [78:20] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
At the heart of this wonderful recording are the Christmas antiphon Hodie Christus natus est and the Mass which Palestrina based on it. The other texts have seasonal import, too; though this is the kind of music which can (and should) be played all year round; it could make a useful break on the day itself from the usual hurly-burly.
The documentation – excellent, as usual with Hyperion – comes as a pdf document; you could even print out a large version of the Lorenzo Lotto cover picture and display it with your Christmas cards.
There’s an alternative version of the Palestrina Mass and Motet Hodie Christus natus est from Paul McCreesh with the Gabrieli Consort and Players, a reconstruction of a Christmas Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, c.1620, mostly recorded in that basilica. (DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON Archiv 433 8332 – from passionato.com in mp3). McCreesh takes the music rather more briskly than Baker, adding organs, chittaroni and sometimes violin and cornet, to achieve an attractively dance-like performance. The movements of the Mass are interspersed with plainsong settings of the introit, and other music ranging in time from Josquin to Anerio and Frescobaldi. The CD seems to be deleted in the UK, so the download is all the more welcome.
Hieronymus PRAETORIUS (1560-1629) Motets
Jubilate Deo [4:02] ; Ecce Dominus veniet [5:36] ; Hodie Christus natus est [3:01] ; Ab oriente venerunt Magi [6:03] ; Nunc dimittis [4:42] ; O bone Jesu [6:50] ; Magnificat quarti toni [11:15] ; Wie lang, O Gott [3:24] ; Surrexit pastor bonus [3:02] ; Ascendo ad patrem meum [2:33] ; Hodie completi sunt [6:14] ; Adesto unus Deus [3:45] ; Cantate Domino [4:37]
Bremen Weser-Renaissance-Ensemble/Manfred Cordes
CPO 777245-2 [65:04] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
There is music here for the whole of the church’s year, beginning and ending with festal settings and encompassing Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost in-between. All the performances are good, the mp3 sound is realistic and the price is attractive – just £4.99 from classicsonline.com.
The title of the CD reminds us of the debt which German composers of Praetorius’s generation owed to Italy. By the way, this is the less well known Hieronymus Praetorius – no relation to the more famous Michael (see below), but he was his close contemporary, had met him and was influenced by him. In many ways his music is just as attractive as that of his better-known namesake.
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Puer Natus in Bethlehem - Advent and Christmas Music
Veni Redemptor gentium [9:41] ; In dulci jubilo [5:32] ; Von Himmel hoch [4:38] ; Puer natus in Bethlehem [7:23] ; Conditor alme siderum [7:25] ; Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ [9:23] ; Resonet in laudibus [10:13] ; A solis ortu cardine [13:12]
Bremer Barock Consort/Manfred Cordes
rec. Stiftskirche Bassum, Bremen, 23-26 January 2007. DDD.
CPO 777 327-2 [67:33] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
“In season or out, this Praetorius disc is a gem ... All in all a great place to begin an exploration of Praetorius’ music ... spare him a thought: had he not been surpassed by the likes of Bach he deserves to be much better known.” See review by Simon Thompson.
The mp3 download is of good quality – and it’s a snip at £4.99. The only recording of Praetorius’s Christmas music to surpass this is the Deutsche Grammophon Archiv of his Christmas Mass, available from amazon.co.uk for £7.99.
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621) Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [01:48]
trad, arr. David WILLCOCKS (b.1919) Sussex Carol (On Christmas night) [01:37]
trad, arr. Robert Lucas PEARSALL (1795-1856) In dulci jubilo [03:40]
Michael PRAETORIUS Enatus est Emanuel [01:20]
Adam GUMPELZHAIMER (1559-1625) Nun freuet euch, ihr Arm und Reich [02:44]
Johann Friedrich REICHARDT (1752-1814) Heilige Nacht [02:41]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750), arr. Ulrich SCHICHA (1934-1993)
O Jesulein süß [03:21]
William J. KIRKPATRICK (1838-1921), arr. David HILL (b1957)
Away in a manger [02:20]
Samuel SEIDEL (?-1665) Uns ist ein Kind geboren [02:42]
Michael PRAETORIUS Psalite unigenito [01:07]
trad, arr. Philip LEDGER (b.1937) Still, still, still [02:49]
John Francis WADE (1711-1786), arr. David WILLCOCKS O come all ye faithful [04:28]
trad, arr. Günter RAFAEL (1903-1960) Maria durch ein Dornwald ging [03:36]
Friedrich SILCHER (1789-1860), arr. Ulrich SCHICHA Alle Jahre wieder [01:11]
trad, arr. Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958), David HILL
O little town of Bethlehem [03:09]
Alban BERG (1885-1935) Es ist ein Reis entsprungen [05:13]
trad, arr. Carl RIEDEL (1827-1888) Kommet, ihr Hirten [01:54]
trad, arr. Hans SITT (1850-1922) Zu Bethlehem geboren [01:43]
Franz GRUBER, arr. Barry ROSE (b.1934) Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht [03:07]
trad, arr. David WILLCOCKS The first Nowell [05:32]
trad, arr. Hans HUBER (1852-1921) Schlaf wohl, du Himmelsknabe [02:53]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621) Hodie Christus natus est [02:38]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897), arr. Gordon BINKERD (1916-2003)
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, op. 122, No 8 [02:41]
Vocal Concert Dresden/Peter Kopp; Sebastian Knebel (organ)
rec. 3– 6 October 2008, Hauptkirche St Marien in Kamenz (Saxony), Germany. DDD
BERLIN CLASSICS 0016442BC [64:33] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
“It is not just the programme which gives reason for enjoyment. It is also the singing of the Vocal Concert Dresden. This ensemble mostly sings early music and produces a beautiful and transparent sound ... It is very refreshing to hear Christmas carols in their original form or in tasteful arrangements rather than in vulgar distortions. And ‘Stille Nacht’ is sung here without any sentimentality which can make this piece so unbearable. In short: this is an outstanding disc with choral music for Advent and Christmas.” – see review by Johan van Veen.
What more is there to say, except that the mp3 sound is good?
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672) The Christmas Story SWV435 [35:16]
Giovanni GABRIELI (1557–1612) Christmas Motets
Quem vidistis pastores? [8:35]; Audite principes [5:44]; O magnum mysterium [3:08]; Salvator noster [4:17]
Ruth Holton, Angel; John Mark Ainsley Evangelist; Michael George, Herod
The King’s Consort/Robert King
rec. December 1989, St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London. DDD
Texts and translations included.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55310 [56:53] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
Magnificat d’Uppsala & autres œuvres sacrées
Herr, der du bist vormals genädig gewest [13:03]
Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen SWV 399, Symphoniæ Sacræ III (1650) [5:31]
O misericordissime Jesu SWV 309, Kleine geistliche Konzerte II (1639) [5:10]
Hütet euch, daß eure Herzen nicht beschweret werden, SWV 413, Symphoniæ Sacræ III [6:37]
Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, SWV 447 [4:50]
Herr, wie lang willst du mein so gar vergessen, SWV 416, Symphoniæ Sacræ III [7:01]
O Jesu, nomen dulce SWV 308, Kleine geistliche Konzerte II [3:45]
Wo der Herr nicht das Haus bauet, SWV 400, Symphoniæ Sacræ III [8:19]
O bone, o dulcis, o benigne Jesu, SWV 53, Cantiones Sacræ (1625) [3:30]
Magnificat, SWV 468, Manuscrit d’Uppsala (1665) [11:38]
La Chapelle Rhénane/Benoît Haller
K617 191 [69:26] – from emusic.com (mp3)
The budget-price Hyperion recording of Schütz’s Christmas Story, with Christmas motets by his Venetian mentor, Giovanni Gabrieli, is clearly related to the season, the K617 recording much less so, though it ends with a setting of the Magnificat; I just couldn’t resist including it here, I find it such an enthralling recording.
The Hyperion offers beautiful music, very well performed and recorded, with excellent notes and texts to download and print out. Apart from a possible preference for the Archiv recording which I recommended two years ago, where it’s embedded in a reconstructed Christmas Vespers – see review – I’m fully in agreement with Em Marshall’s assessment of this album: “Glorious music, excellent performances” – see review.
There are no texts with the K617 – I understand that the parent CD contains these, but no English translation – but otherwise everything about this album is first-class. Having downloaded it, I couldn’t stop playing it.
The lossless download of the Hyperion recording is very good, as is the eMusic version of the K617, albeit that the latter is variable bit rate mp3 only, with just one track at 320k, the rest at 192k.
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Canticum in Honorem Beatae Virginis Mariae, H 400 [11:03]
Symphonie Devant Regina - Prelude A 3, H 509 - Pour La Conception De La Vierge, H 313
Nativité de la Vierge, H 309 [4:54]
Prélude & Salve Regina À Trois Voix Pareilles, H 23 [8:22]
Pour la Fête de L’Epiphanie, H 395 [7:03]
Prelude pour la Magnificat, H 533 - Magnificat, H 80 [9:28]
Stabat Mater pour des Religieuses, H 15 [13:02]
Litanies de la Vierge, H 83[17:15]
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
rec. 1989. DDD.
ALIA VOX (from Auvidis E8713) [74:45] – from emusic.com (mp3)
This is not, strictly, a Christmas album, apart from the music for Epiphany, H395, but it is all very beautiful and it is very well performed and recorded. Apart from the lack of texts, this is as irresistible as the original CD release.
The track information from eMusic, as so often is the case, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt: don’t believe the statement that track 1 is by Christopher Tye!
The lacklustre covers of these reissues and the lack of catalogue numbers are annoying, but the performances – not currently available on CD in the UK – are well worth downloading.
Baroque Christmas Music
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Festive Suite in A major
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Behold, I bring you glad tidings, Z2
Giuseppe VALENTINI (1680-1759) Sinfonia a tre, per il santissimo Natale, Op 1 No 12
Giuseppe TORELLI (1658-1709) Concerto a quattro in forma di pastorale, per il santo natale in G minor, Op. 8 No. 6
Gaetano Maria SCHIASSI (1698-1754) Sinfonia pastorale per il santissimo natale di nostro Jesu ‘Christmas Symphony’
Northwest Chamber Orchestra of Seattle/Alun Francis
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55048 [47:36] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
Back in January, 2000, in one of Musicweb’s first reviews, this CD was awarded four stars (out of five). It remains recommendable for anyone who would like to get away temporarily from vocal contributions to the season, including as it does several examples of the Italian Christmas Concerto Grosso but not, I’m happy to report, the best known, by Corelli, which is readily available elsewhere.
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Christmas Cantatas
Ouverture à la Pastorelle (TWV 55,F7)** [13:28]
Hosianna! Dieses soll die Lösung sein (TWV 1,810)*** [15:09]
O Jesu Christ, dein Kripplein ist (TWV 1,1200)*** [12:14]
Uns ist ein Kind geboren (TWV 1,1453)*** [18:31]
Christoph BERNHARD (1629-1692) Fürchtet euch nicht* [7:02]
Mária Zádori (soprano), Judit Németh (mezzo), Gábor Kállay (tenor), Klaus Mertens (baritone); Capella Savaria/Pál Németh
rec. 1983 (*), 1988 (**), 1991 (***)
HUNGAROTON HCD 32611 [66:45] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
Johan van Veen’s description of this recording as perfect is spot on: “If you would like to purchase a disc with baroque Christmas music which you haven’t heard many times before, this is the disc to seek out. It contains first-rate music in excellent performances.” (See review for his full and well-deserved encomium of this Recording of the Month).
The mp3 transfer does ample justice to the performances.
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV61 [14:39]
Cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV62 [19:57]
Cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV63 [29:04]
Sepppi Kronwitter, Kurt Equiluz, Ruud van der Meer, Pater Jelosits, Paul Esswood, Tölz Boys’ Choir; Concentus Musicus, Vienna/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
WARNER TELDEC [63:40] – from amazon.co.uk (mp3)
Cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV63 [26:37]
Cantata Sehet, welch eine Liebe, BWV64 [18:15]
Cantata Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV121 [17:41]
Cantata Ich freue mich in Dir, BWV133 [18:48]
Sara Mingardo, Ann Monoyios, Stephan Loges, Rufus Muller, Derek Lee Ragin, Julian Podger, Katherine Fuge, Gotthold Schwarz; The Monteverdi Choir;The English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ARCHIV 463 5892 [81:10] – from passionato.com (mp3)
We take Handel, in the form of Messiah, for granted at Christmas, though it was originally intended for Easter. We are a little less inclined to think about Bach in Advent and at Christmas, but here are two excellent reasons to put that right.
The Warner/Teldec recording from the classic Harnoncourt and Leonhardt series combines two Advent cantatas, Nos. 61 and 62, with the Christmas cantata No. 63. Harnoncourt employs the Tölz Boys’ Choir, with a treble soloist, the latter requiring a little tolerance on the listener’s part, and the original-instrument Concentus Musicus. Like many others, when I first heard Harnoncourt’s Bach I thought the result, especially from the violins, somewhat cold, but these performances have grown on me over the years and, though I still enjoy the older-school performances of Richter, I think you’ll enjoy what’s on offer here. At £2.79, in any case, you can hardly go wrong.
The Deutsche Grammophon Archiv recording of four Christmas cantatas is a more recent ‘authentic’ offering and, with female soloists, a little easier on the ear. At £7.99 it costs a little more, but offers over 80 minutes of music – so you won’t be able to burn it all to CDR. Cantata No. 63 appears on both programmes, but it’s well worth hearing the different interpretations – both excellent of their kind and both sounding well in mp3 format. Gardiner’s version is more fleet of foot on paper but, in reality, there’s very little in it.
If you’re looking for Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, passionato.com have several on offer, including my personal favourite, from John Eliot Gardiner again, on its own for £15.99 or in a set with the Passions and b-minor Mass for an economical £47.99.
While shepherds watched - Christmas music from English parish churches - 1740 - 1830
Michael BEESLY (b.1700) While shepherds watched their flocks by night [04:36]
anon, arr Caleb ASHWORTH (1722-1775) Let an anthem of praise [02:30]
John Christopher SMITH (1712-1795), arr John ARNOLD (c.1720-1792)
While shepherds watched their flocks by night [03:06]
Pieter HELLENDAAL (1721-1799) Concerto in E flat, op. 3 No 4: pastorale [03:35]
anon, arr Thomas BUTTS Hark! how all the welkin rings [06:24]
Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber [04:08]
Joseph KEY (d.1784) As shepherds watched their fleecy care [06:15]
Samuel ARNOLD (1740-1802) Hark! the herald angels sing [03:34]
Thomas CLARK (1775-1859) While shepherds watched their flocks by night [05:04]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759), arr Edward MILLER (1735-1807)
Hark! the herald angels sing [04:08]
Thomas JARMAN (1776-1861) There were shepherds abiding in the field [03:22]
Samuel WESLEY (1766-1837) Rondo on God rest you merry, gentlemen* [06:18]
William MATTHEWS (1759-1830) Angels from the realms of glory [05:24]
George Frideric HANDEL, arr Thomas TAYLOR
Hymning seraphs wake the morning* [03:01]
John FOSTER (1762-1822) While shepherds watched their flocks by night [04:48]
Psalmody; The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman; Timothy Roberts (fortepiano*)
rec. 18-20 July 1996. DDD
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55325 [67:33] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
Think you know the tune of While shepherds watched? When you hear the 18th-century versions on offer here, you may rethink your attitude to the familiar Victorian melody. This recording reminds us of the English Christmas tradition before the Victorians and the Oxford Movement got their hands on it.
There’s much that we wouldn’t wish to revive – you only have to read the Christmas celebrations in Silas Marner not to wish to turn the clock back: where the highlight of the day was the recitation at Mattins of the Athanasian Creed with its promise of damnation to all those who didn’t follow every iota of its prescriptions.
Turn from George Eliot to Hardy’s description of the gallery musicians and their part in the celebrations, however, and you’ll have some idea of the appeal of the music here. Like Johan van Veen, I found this recording highly recommendable – see his review.
I’m sure that Handel, an inveterate borrower of his own and other composers’ works, would have approved of the use of See the conquering hero comes by Edward Miller. For once I downloaded the mp3 rather than the flac version and found nothing to criticise.
Jakub Jan RYBA (1765-1815)
Czech Christmas Mass - Hej, mistre (1796) [41:12]
Missa pastoralis [13:28]
Dagmar Vankatova (soprano); Pavla Ksicova (contralto); Vladimir Dolezal (tenor); Vaclav Sibera (bass); Josef Ksica (organ); Czech Madrigalists Choir; Czech Madrigalists Orchestra/Frantisek Xaver Thuri
Texts and translations available online at classicsonline.com.
NAXOS 8.554428 [54:40] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or passionato.com (mp3 or lossless)
This is such fun music that even the Communist regime in Czechslovakia encouraged its performance. Composers such as Ryba and Pascha embellished the Christmas Mass with folk music, effectively overwriting the Latin text in the process. These performances bring out all the joy of the music and they sound well in download format. If you want the lossless flac version and can’t wait for this to be available from the Naxos home site, classicsonline.com (it’s promised soon), you’ll need to turn to passionato.com.
There’s also an older (1965) Supraphon recording of the main work from emusic.com – see review by Jonathan Woolf.
William Henry FRY (1813-1864)
Santa Claus Symphony (1853) [26:20]
Overture to Macbeth (1864) [10:37]
Niagara Symphony (1854) [13:46]
The Breaking Heart [10:47]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Tony Rowe
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559057[61:30] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or passionato.com (mp3 or lossless)
William Henry Fry’s Santa Claus Symphony has to be my Christmas Discovery. I had never heard of Fry until I came across this Naxos recording, though he was famous both as a musicologist and as a composer in his own day. It’s almost impossible to describe the Santa Claus Symphony, with its dissent among the Christmas angels and a poor wretch perishing in the snow, yet all ending happily with Santa’s arrival and the proclamation of Christmas. The other music is equally worth hearing and the performance and recording do the music proud.
Hodie. An English Christmas Collection.
William WALTON (1902-1983) Make we joy now in this fest [3:20]
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988) Coventry Carol [3:07]
Peter Racine FRICKER (1929-1990) A babe is born [1:39]
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986) The Virgin’s Cradle Song [1:39]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) A Hymn to the Virgin [3:33]
John TAVENER (b.1944) The Lamb [3:31]
Benjamin BRITTEN A Ceremony of Carols [21:43]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Sing lullaby [3:45]; A spotless rose [2:27]
Peter HAYWARD (b.1955) Lute book lullaby [3:31]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) Corpus Christi [4:28]; Balulalow [1:59]; Benedicamus Domino [1:09]
John GARDNER (b.1917) Tomorrow shall be my dancing day [2:02]
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
rec. St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, January 1990 and September 1992. DDD.
Notes and texts included as pdf.
CORO 16004 [59:22] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
Unlike the new recording from Westminster Cathedral (below), this concentrates on 20th-century English composers from Herbert Howells to Peter Hayward, with pride of place given to Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin and Ceremony of Carols. Like Jonathan Woolf - see review – I found the whole very attractive. The performances are all that we expect from The Sixteen and the mp3 sound is good. The booklet comes as part of the deal.
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999) Complete Orchestral Works 7
Retablo de Navidad (1952) (Christmas Carols and Songs for soprano and bass soloists, chorus and orchestra) [22:55]
Himnos de los neófitos de Qumrán (1965-74) (Hymns of the Neophytes of Qumran, for three sopranos, male chorus and chamber orchestra) [19:18]
Música para un códice salmantino (1953) (Music for a Salamancan Codex, for bass solo, mixed chorus and orchestra) [11:06]
Cántico de San Francisco de Asis (1982) (Canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi, for chorus and orchestra) [18:30]
Raquel Lojendio, María Jesús Prieto, Victoria Marchante and Ada Allende (sopranos); David Rubiera (baritone); Orchestra and Chorus of the Comunidad de Madrid /José Ramón Encinar
rec. Sede de la Orquesta y Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid, Hortaleza, Madrid, Spain, 9-12 July 2002. DDD.
NAXOS 8.557223 [71:48] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or passionato.com (mp3 or lossless)
I had hoped and expected to make this my Christmas Discovery for 2009 but, in the event, I was somewhat disappointed, finding the music far from vintage Rodrigo and the performances and recording rather sub-fusc. Lovers of the concertos will find Rodrigo writing in a different style here in his settings of vocal music, mostly to texts by his wife. At its best, some of it is reminiscent of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, but there isn’t enough of this to appeal. Even the cover picture of the Corpus Christi procession is inappropriate for music designed for Christmas and Holy Week. Naxos and classicsonline themselves seem to be out of sorts with their product, choosing to endorse it with a review of a completely different album performed by the Aradia Ensemble.
Nativitas: American Christmas Carols
Conrad SUSA Three Mystical Carols: The Shepherds Sing [3:04]; This Endrys Night [5:25]; Let Us Gather Hand in Hand [3:11]
John CARTER In Time of Softest Snow [3:18]
Ned ROREM Shout the Glad Tidings [0:47]
arr. Mark JOHNSON Silent Night [5:17]
Jean BELMONT Nativitas: Carol [2:39]; Nova, nova [1:46]; Salve, lux fidelium [3:08]; Veni redemptor gentium [1:29]; Nativitas [2:17]; Sweet was the song the Virgin sung [3:09]; O magnum mysterium [1:54]; Noe, noe psallite noe [1:40]
Leo SOWERBY Love Came Down at Christmas [3:20]
Charles IVES A Christmas Carol [2:01]
Arnold FREED Three Shepherd Carols: Shepherds! Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep [1:04]; O Come to Bethlehem [2:50]; Angels We Have Heard on High [2:12]
Norman Dello JOIO The Holy Infant’s Lullaby [4:47]
Joel MARTINSON There is No Rose [3:27]
arr. Edwin FISSINGER I Saw Three Ships [1:51]
Henry COWELL Sweet Was the Song the Virgin Sung [2:41]
arr. Kevin OLDHAM ‘Silent Night’ from Three Carols, Op 20 [3:46]
Soloists: Laurie Brenner, Michael Lichtenauer, Pamela Williamson; Lyra Pringle Pherigo (flute); Wesley Kelly (harp); James Higdon (organ)
Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy
rec. All Saints Lutheran Church, Kansas City, USA, 7-10 July 1994. DDD.
NIMBUS NI5413 [67:03] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
I’ve already commented on some of the items from this programme, as they were ‘borrowed’ for another Nimbus Collection, The Spirit of Christmas Present (NI7034) – see review and an earlier Musicweb review. I very much enjoyed the works by Norman dello Joio and Ned Rorem and Kevin Oldham’s arrangement of Silent Night on that CD, but felt that they did not always sit well with the other music with which they were juxtaposed.
Here they can be heard and enjoyed much more in context with other 20th-century American music. This is a far better buy than Christmas Present, as also is Kevin Bowyer’s CD of Christmas organ music (NI7711), excerpts from which also sit rather awkwardly on NI7034. I have already recommended the Bowyer CD as a separate purchase.
Nick Barnard thought Nativitas “as beautiful a disc of precious Christmas music as you are likely to hear this or any year” – see review – and, now that I have heard the music in context, I’m inclined to agree.
A Procession of Chant & Polyphony from the vaults of Westminster Cathedral from Advent to Christmas & the Epiphany and Presentation of Our Lord
ADVENT: Plainsong Rorate cæli [5:12]
Tomás Luis Da VICTORIA (1548–1611) Descendit Angelus Domini [4 :52]
Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent
William BYRD (1539/40–1623) Rorate cæli [4:07]
Plainsong Kyrie Mass X ‘Alme Pater’ [1:46]
Gloria Mass X ‘Alme Pater’ [3:02]
William BYRD Tollite portas – Ave Maria [3:54]
Plainsong Sanctus & Benedictus Mass X ‘Alme Pater’ [0:52]
Agnus Dei Mass X ‘Alme Pater’ [0:59]
William BYRD Ecce virgo concipiet [1:46]
CHRISTMAS: Plainsong Psalm 2 [3:20]
Matthew MARTIN (b.1976) Adam lay ybounden [3:13]
George MALCOLM (1917–1997) Missa Ad praesepe: Kyrie [1:55]
Gloria with improvised organ strepitus [6:05]
Plainsong Alleluia. Dominus dixit [2:25]
Sanctus & Benedictus Mass IX ‘Cum iubilo’ [1:36]
Agnus Dei [1:59]
EPIPHANY & PRESENTATION: Plainsong Ecce advenit [2:32]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643) Messa a 4 da cappella : Gloria [3:54]
Alleluia. Vidimus stellam [2:13]
Sanctus & Benedictus [3:12]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532–1594) Omnes de Saba [2:54]
Agnus Dei [2:04]
Maurice BEVAN (1921–2006) Magnificat (alternatim with mode 8 chant and improvised organ versets) [7:26]
Charles WOOD (1866–1926) Nunc dimittis in B flat [3:17]
Martin BAKER (b.1967) Marche des Rois mages (organ improvisation) [3 :10]
Matthew Martin (organ); The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker (director and organ improvisations)
HYPERION CDA67707 [77:55] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
I referred briefly to this recording my October, 2009, Download Roundup and Robert Hugill has since reviewed the CD in some detail. Like RH – see review – I had some small (very small) reservations about the performances and I should have preferred a less haphazard mixture of periods, but the programme works surprisingly well – after all the King’s Nine Lessons and Carols employs a similar mix – and it deserves to sell well as an out-of-the-ordinary Christmas-tide offering on CD or as a download.
Christmas Vespers at Westminster Cathedral
Music by Jan SWEELINCK, Matthew MARTIN, Thomas TALLIS, Tomás Luis de VICTORIA, Heinrich SCHÜTZ and Jean LANGLAIS
Matthew Martin (organ); Westminster Cathedral Choir/Martin Baker
rec. March, 2005, Westminster Cathedral. DDD. Texts included as pdf.
HYPERION CDA67522 [68:00] - from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
Like the newer recording, above, this CD of music for Christmas Eve Vespers – the First Vespers of Christmas – contains music from a variety of composers and periods, but it works very well, perhaps even better than its successor. The programme is framed by the music of two Protestant composers, Sweelinck on the opening track and Schütz on the penultimate, something which would have been unthinkable for a Roman Catholic choir only 50 years ago, though both were composing in a style derived from their Italian Catholic contemporaries. Performance and recording do the music full justice. Strongly recommended for Christmas Eve, perhaps after hearing the Lessons and Carols from King’s, and throughout the Christmas period.
John WADE arr. David WILLCOCKS O Come, All Ye Faithful [4:12]
Traditional arr. D. WILLCOCKS Sussex Carol [1:36]
The First Nowell [3:16]
French Traditional arr. A CARTER A Maiden Most Gentle [2:47]
D. WILLCOCKS Birthday Carol [2:40]
Reginald JACQUES When Christ Was Born [1:15]
John RUTTER Star Carol [2:42]
Traditional arr. Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Wassail Song [2:44]
From Piae Cantiones arr. D. WILLCOCKS Of the Father’s Heart Begotten [3:04]
French Traditional arr. D. WILLCOCKS Shepherds, in the Field Abiding [2:40]
Henry John GAUNTLETT arr. D. WILLCOCKS Once in Royal David's City [4:24]
John RUTTER Christmas Lullaby [3:50]
Traditional arr. J. WILLCOCKS The Holly and the Ivy [3:53]
arr. Sidney CARTER/ D. WILLCOCKS Lord of the Dance [3:22]
William MATHIAS Bell Carol [3:59]
Franz Xaver GRUBER arr. D. WILLCOCKS Silent Night [2:20]
J. PIERPONT arr. D. WILLCOCKS Jingle, Bells [2:00]
Traditional arr. A. WARRELL A Merry Christmas [1:28]
Felix MENDELSSOHN arr. D. WILLCOCKS Hark! The Herald Angels Sing [3:41]
Bach Choir; Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall; John Scott (organ)/Sir David Willcocks
rec. Guildford Cathedral, 29-31 January 1991. DDD.
CHANDOS COLLECT CHAN6671 [56:41] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)
Subscribers to the Chandos email newsletter will have received this recording as their free download this month. Otherwise it costs £4.80 (mp3) or £4.99 (lossless) or as a super-budget-price CD at £4.88.
This is just about as inexpensive and mainstream/traditional as you can get – it will be too mainstream for most readers, who will have umpteen versions of all these carols, but ideal for those looking for such a collection.
One of the odd consequences of Chandos’s otherwise laudable retention of deleted recordings as downloads is that the same album is available more expensively on CHAN8973; don’t buy it in that form, but download the free booklet, available only from that webpage.
arr. Edward PEAK Christmas Overture [2:38]
Sergei PROKOFIEV Troika [3:05]
Howard BLAKE The Snowman [4:25]
Leroy ANDERSON Sleigh Ride [2:57]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY Three Pieces from The Nutcracker [5:35]
March - Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy - Trepak
arr. HARVEY In the Bleak Midwinter [5:10]
Leroy ANDERSON Christmas Festival [6:45]
arr. HARVEY Silent Night [3:37]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Polonaise from Christmas Eve Suite [4:32]
arr. HARVEY Ding Dong Merrily on High [2:47]
John IRELAND The Holy Boy [2:57]
arr. HARVEY Away in a Manger [3:07]
arr. Edward PEAK Christmas Medley [7:27]
Steffan Rhys Hughes (treble); National Youth Orchestra of Wales/Owain Arwel Hughes
QUARTZ QTZ22035 [55:07] – from quartzmusic.com (mp3)
Like the Chandos recording of carols from Guildford, many readers will have most, if not all, of this music already. If you don’t, the performances here are good, apart from the fact that the boy treble struggles to compete with the orchestra, especially in In the bleak midwinter, and the download sound is more than adequate. The notes promised on the website are still ‘to follow’, but they aren’t really necessary for this music.
Those wishing to play via Squeezebox will need to rename the tracks from 1-2-3, etc, to 01-02-03, etc., in Windows Explorer, to avoid playing track 11 after track 1.
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-1558)
Missa Cantate, with the propers of the Third Mass of the Nativity according to the Sarum Rite
Salisbury Cathedral Boy Choristers; Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ARCHIV 457 6582 [81:06] – from passionato.com (mp3)
I conclude with a recording as delectable as those with which I began: John Sheppard’s Cantate Mass in a performance to rival that of The Sixteen, on Hyperion Dyad or in the 10-CD box set which I made one of my Recordings of the Year (CDS44401/10 – see review). In one of Paul McCreesh’s familiar reconstructions of a liturgical context, Sheppard’s setting is placed within the Sarum Third Mass for Christmas Day, with the Salisbury Boy Choristers taking the part of their renaissance predecessors in the cathedral which initiated the Sarum Use, the most widely employed Missal and Breviary in late medieval and early modern England.
This is no longer available on CD in the UK except, I think, from Arkivmusic.com, so the download is very welcome. As with most McCreesh reconstructions, the total length is a little too much to burn to one CDR.