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A Very Pristine Christmas. A Collection of Historic Recordings

A festive feast from Pristine Audio … see Full Review


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750) Weihnachtsoratorium (BWV 248) Veronika Winter (soprano); Weibke Lehmkuhl (contralto); Jan Kobow (tenor); Markus Flaig (bass) Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max rec. 1-3, 14-16 January 2009, Convent Knechtsteden, Germany. DDD CPO 777 459-2 [73:29 + 63:31] [JV]

The playing and singing is first-rate, but the interpretation is too restrained ... see Full Review

Anthony BOLTON (b. 1950) A Garland of Carols* *Sioned Williams (harp); **Richard Edgar-Wilson (tenor); **Fali Pavri (piano) Oxford Voices/Mark Shepherd rec. 2009 English texts included GUILD GMCD 7335 [76:19] [JQ]

Well presented and should help bring Bolton to the public’s attention ... see Full Review 

A Boston Camerata Christmas. Worlds of Early Christmas Music
CD 1: An American Christmas - Carols Hymns & Spirituals, 1770-1870 [61:46]
CD 2: A French Christmas - French Christmas Music, 1200-1600 [62:51]
CD 3: A Spanish Christmas - Music from the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Holy Land & the New World, 1200-1700 [72:34] Boston Camerata; The Schola Cantorum of Boston (CD 1); The Brown University Chorus (CD 1); The Boston Shawm & Sackbut Ensemble (CD 2); Camerata Mediterranea (CD 3); Abdelkrim Rais Andalusian Orchestra of Fès (CD 3)/Joel Cohen rec. 1985-1993 Full track-listing at the end of this review. WARNER CLASSICS 2564 69415-0 [61:46 + 62:51 + 72:34]  [JQ]

For those of a slightly adventurous spirit this could be just the thing for a welcome seasonal change ... see Full Review

Buxtehude/Bach: Organ Music for Christmas Time Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Siegbert Rampe (organ) rec. 16 March 2007, Organ Hall of the School of Music of Arizona State University in Tempe, USA. DDD

As a portrait of the organ this disc turns out well but these readings are not uniformly convincing ... see Full Review

Celebration - Christmas Fanfares and Carols
Aled Jones (readings), BBC Welsh Chorus, John Hugh Thomas, Huw Tregelles Williams (organ), Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guards, Lt. Col. P. Hannam, BEM, musical director rec. 3-4 February and 1 July 1991, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5310 [73:34]

A lovely collection … see Full Review 

Christmas A Cappella. Songs from around the world. Chicago a cappella rec. 2008, Bond Chapel. University of Chicago Original texts and English translations included CEDILLE CDR 90000 107 [64:10] [JQ]

There’s not a musical hair out of place here but the result is curiously uninvolving... see Full Review

Christmas Chant: Traditional Latin Plainchant for Christmas The Monks of Prinknash Abbey; The Nuns of Stanbrook Abbey rec. 1987. DDD. Texts and translations included. SAYDISC CD-SDL 369 [62:48] [BW]

Ideal for those seeking peace and simplicity at Christmas ... see Full Review 

Christmas from Lichfield Robert Sharpe (organ); The Choir of Lichfield Cathedral/Andrew Lumsden rec. Lichfield Cathedral, 12-15 February 1996. DDD.Texts included. NIMBUS NI5496 [69:57] [BW]

This may be the collection you’re looking for ... see Full Review 

Christmas Organ Music Kevin Bowyer (organ) rec. Chichester Cathedral, 16-17 August 1995. DDD. NIMBUS NI7711 [71:45] [BW]

A most attractive recording ... see Full Review 

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Christmas Preludes - Preludes for Holy Christmastide Johannes Strobl (organ) rec. 2008, The Abbey Church of Muri, Canton Aargau, Switzerland AUDITE 92.573 [73:04] [DM]

The perfect complement to a festive feast ... see Full Review 

Christmas Songs (See end of review for list of works) Ida Falk Winland (soprano) Linné Brass Quintet with members of the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra Orphei Drängar male-voice choir/Cecilia Rydinger Alin rec. Uppsala University Hall, Sweden, February 2009 text and English translations included BIS-CD-1833 [65:22] [JS]

Each item has been carefully chosen and is performed to its best advantage... see Full Review


December - Laudes Hannah Holgersson; Anton Ravik (soloists) Laudes Choir/Per-Henrik Holgersson rec. 2007/2008, ToneZone Studios; Church of Odensala, Sweden. PROPRIUS PRCD 2050 [38:48]

Outstanding sonic qualities and an enjoyable programme, well sung … see Full Review

Enchanted Carols Howard GOODALL (b.1958) The Enchanted Voices/Howard Goodall rec. EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, no date given CLASSIC FM CFMD 11 [70:00] [BBr]

This concoction is best left to one side as a miscalculation. … see Full Review


Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
Vocal Concert Dresden/Peter Kopp; Sebastian Knebel (organ) rec. 3 - 6 October 2008, Hauptkirche St Marien in Kamenz, Germany. DDD BERLIN CLASSICS 0016442BC [64:33] [JV]

An outstanding disc with choral music for Advent and Christmas ... see Full Review 

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen - Christmas Music for Choir and Organ Vox Bona/Karin Freist-Wissing; Stefan Horz (organ) rec. 7-9 February 2009, Ev. Emmanuel-Kirche, Köln-Rondorf (choir); Kreuzkirche, Bonn (organ) AUDITE 92.565 [80:49] [DM]

Worth buying for the choral items alone; don’t expect much from the rest. ... see Full Review 

Fear and Rejoice, O People: Music for Advent and Christmas The Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson Iain Farrington (organ)
rec. 14–15 July 1998, Chapel of St. John's College, Cambridge NIMBUS NI 5589 [66:42] [BBr]

Absolutely delightful … see Full Review

Feliz Navidad - Mediterranean Christmas Music from the Renaissance Cécile Kempenaers (soprano); José Pizarro (tenor) Capella de la Torre/Katharina Bäuml rec. 2008 DDD. Texts and translations included. COVIELLO CLASSICS COV20811 [65:53] [BW]

Joins a select number of first-rate renaissance and baroque Christmas recordings ... see Full Review 

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury rec. live, Chapel of Kings College, Cambridge, 24 December 2008 Texts enclosed Track-Listing at end of review EMI CLASSICS 50999 6860822 [54:53 + 34:58] [RC]

A fine souvenir of a memorable occasion ... see Full Review

Frohlocke nun! (Rejoice Now!) - Christmas music from Berlin between Baroque and Romanticism Dennis Chmelensky (treble); Olivia Vermeulen (contralto); Jan Kobow Patrick Vogel (tenor); Matthias Vieweg (bass) Staats- und Domchor Berlin, Lautten Compagney Berlin/Kai-Uwe Jirka rec. 2009 CARUS 83.442 [70:40] [JV]

A very good recording of music for Christmastide most of which has never been recorded before ... see Full Review 

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH In Terra Pax: A Christmas Anthology Gustav HOLST, John JOUBERT, William MATHIAS, Herbert HOWELLS, Gerald FINZI, Peter WARLOCK, Kenneth LEIGHTON, John RUTTER, John GARDNER, William MATHIAS, Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Julia Doyle (soprano); Roderick Williams (baritone); Mark Williams (organ, celesta, piano) City of London Choir; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Hilary Davan Wetton rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572102 [57:37] [ST]

As good a Christmas recital as you’re likely to find ... see Full Review

Into This World This Day Did Come. Carols Contemporary & Medieval Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge/Geoffrey Webber/David Ballantyne, Matthew Fletcher & Geoffrey Webber (organ) rec. 2009, . DDD Original texts and English translations included *First recording DELPHIAN DCD34075 [75:28][JQ]

This is one of the most original and enterprising Christmas discs to have come my way in a long time... see Full Review

Karl JENKINS (b.1944) Stella Natalis, Joy to the World Kate Royal (soprano); Alice Halstead (chorister); Alison Balsom (trumpet); Jody K Jenkins and Zands (percussion); Tenebrae; Adiemus Singers; Marylebone Camerata/Karl Jenkins rec. Angel Recording Studios, London, 3-4, 19 July 2009. DDD. Texts included. EMI CLASSICS 50999 6886482 [79:33]

Guaranteed enjoyment for fans of Karl Jenkins ... see Full Review 

Joulun virsi - Elämän virsi - Old Finnish Choral Hymns for Christmas Jorma Hynninen (baritone) Marko Ylönen (cello) Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ) rec. 20-22 February 2006, Kallio Church, Helsinki, Finland FUGA 9215 [61:04] [DM]

A Christmas disc to savour ... see Full Review

Joy In The Morning Ex Cathedra/Jeffrey Skidmore, Andrew Fletcher (organ) rec. 10-11 July 2009, St Paul’s Church, Birmingham. DDD Original texts and English translations included ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100008 [75:33] [JQ]

The Christmas CD market is overflowing but this issue has a very strong claim indeed on the attention of collectors ... see Full Review

see also review by William Hedley

Make We Joy - Music for Christmas by Gustav HOLST (1874 - 1934) and William WALTON (1902 - 1983) Christ Church Cathedral Choir Oxford/Stephen Darlington Simon Lawford (organ) rec. Merton College Chapel Oxford, 11- 12 May 1987 NIMBUS NI7021 [49:41]  [NB]

If you are looking for a choral disc of Christmas music without resorting to the usual “lessons & carols” format you will be hard pressed to do better than this... see Full Review

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Carol Ann DUFFY and Sasha JOHNSON MANNING The Manchester Carols (2007) The Manchester Carollers Northern Chamber Orchestra/Richard Tanner rec. St. Thomas’ Church, Stockport, England, 22 October 2007. DDD NAXOS 8.572469 [63:43] [JQ]

Hugely successful and atmospherically beautiful [ST] Fresh, lively and enjoyable [JQ]... ... see Full Review

Midwinter The Sanctuary Ensemble: Christian Forshaw (saxophones, church organ, percussion); Grace Davidson, Joanna Forbes, Katie Trethewey, Amy Wood (singers); Alexia Kalogiannidis (backing vocals); Jeremy Holland-Smith (chorus director, organ); Ian Cape (percussion) rec. 2008 INTEGRA RECORDS ING1003 [38:43] [NB]

Will either delight or frustrate ... see Full Review 

The Musical Advent Calendar - 24 songs for Advent and Christmas (See end of review for list of works and performers)
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC 98.553 [74:33]

Based on the excellent idea of including an item for each day of December before Christmas ... see Full Review

On Christmas Night (See end of review list of works)
Ralph Rousseau (viola da gamba); Lenny Kuhr (vocalist)
rec. Hoogland Catholic Church, 31 August 2006; “De Glindster”, De Glind, 23 April 2009 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72340 [44:35]

Christmas on the viol is both amusing and musically enjoyable ... see Full Review

Prima Voce Party
Full details in te Review

A magnificent, fascinating, compilation. … see Full Review

Nativitas - American Christmas Carols James Higdon (organ); Pamela Williamson (soprano solo); Lyra Pringle Pherigo (flute); Wesley Kelly (harp); Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy NIMBUS NI5413 [67:03] [NB]

As beautiful a disc of precious Christmas music as you are likely to hear this or any year ... see Full Review

Organ Christmas Beatrice-Maria and Gerhard Weinberger (organ and organ duet) rec. 2009, CPO 777 487-2 [63:36] [DM]


Dull and uninspired ... see Full Review

Jakub Jan RYBA (1765-1815)Czech Christmas Mass Three pastorellas [10:30] Czech Christmas Mass [39:31] Magdalena Kožená (mezzo) Gabriela Eibenová (soprano) Jaroslav Brezina (tenor) Michael Pospíšil (bass) Capella Regia Musicalis/Robert Hugo rec. September 1998, Church of Our Lady of the Convent, Kladruby (Czech Republic) DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ARCHIV 477 8365 [50:01] [PB]

A wonderful antidote to the usual Christmas fayre – very warmly recommended. ... see Full Review

Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672) Weihnachtshistorie (Christmas Story) SWV 435 (c.1660) [34:43] Auferstehungshistorie (Resurrection Story) SWV 450 (c1623) [44:06] Else Torp (soprano); Adam Riis (tenor); Johan Linderoth (tenor); Jakob Bloch Jespersen (bass) Ars Nova Copenhagen; Concerto Copenhagen; Sirius Viols/Paul Hillier rec. Garnisons Kirke, Copenhagen, 29-30 March, 1-2 December 2008 German text and English translation included DACAPO 8.226058 [78:49] [LW]

Probably the greatest and most inspired piece of Christmas music ever written … see Full Review

The Spirit of Christmas Past various artists (see review) rec. historical. NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI 7861 [74:35] [CC]

A lovely, heart-warming collection, intelligently chosen and programmed. ... see Full Review 

The Spirit of Christmas Present Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy,Huw Tregelles Williams (organ); BBC Welsh Chorus/John Hugh Thomas, Kevin Bowyer (organ), James Higdon (organ) The Gulbenkian Orchestra/Michel Swierczewski, Christ Church Cathedral Choir/Stephen Darlington, English String Orchestra/William Boughton, Pamela Williamson (soprano); Lyra Pringle Pherigo (flute); Welsey Kelly (harp) rec. July, 19941,4,8; August, 19953; May, 19876; (P) and (C) 1996. DDD. NIMBUS NI7034 [62:07] [BW]

You could do better, even from within Nimbus’s own catalogue ... see Full Review 

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Stille Nacht (Silent Night) Bettina Pahn (soprano); Joachim Held (lute) rec. 29-31 January 2009, Erlöserkirche in Vahrendorf, Germany. DDD HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 98.525 [59:30] [JV]

A splendid Christmas disc with a number of little-known songs, performed with great refinement and subtlety ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681 - 1767) Christmas Cantatas Christoph BERNHARD (1629-1692) Fürchtet euch nicht* 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] [JV]

First-rate music in excellent performances - a perfect disc ... see Full Review

The Herald Angels Sing - Choral music for Christmas Junges Vokalensemble Hannover/Klaus-Jürgen Etzold rec. Kirche Stephansstift Hannover, 7-9 November 2008, 6-8 February 2009 CARUS 83.441 [65:24] [NB]

When nothing too vigorous is needed … see Full Review  

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Weihnachtslieder (Christmas Carols)   Thomanerchor Leipzig/Georg Christoph Biller; Ulrich Böhme (organ) rec. 2007, 2008 CARUS 83.440 [68:12] [JV]

A most attractive and tasteful programme for Advent and Christmas ... see Full Review 

What Sweeter Music: Songs and Carols for Christmas Tenebrae/Nigel Short James Sherlock (organ) rec. St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London 22-26 June 2009; *27-28 August 2001; **St. Michael’s Church, Highgate, 12-13 May 2004 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD182 [58:30] [JQ]

Listening with great enjoyment ... see Full Review 

While shepherds watched - Christmas music from English parish churches - 1740 - 1830 Psalmody; The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman; Timothy Roberts (fortepiano*) rec. 18-20 July 1996 HYPERION HELIOS CDH55325 [67:33] [JV]

Music written for parish churches - no reconstructions but radiating a sense of authenticity ... see Full Review



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