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CD: Crotchet
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Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [01:48]
trad, arr David WILLCOCKS (b1919)
Sussex Carol (On Christmas night) [01:37]
trad, arr Robert Lucas PEARSALL (1795-1856)
In dulci jubilo [03:40]
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]
Psalite unigenito [01:07]
trad, arr Philip LEDGER (b1937)
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 (b1934)
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]
Experience Classicsonline

It's the time for Chistmas discs again. Artists and record companies take this season as an opportunity to present music which people can enjoy during the last months of the year. Unfortunately many discs give little cause for joy as they are utterly tasteless. But within the stockpiles of Christmas discs one may find some which stand out because of the repertoire or the quality of the performances. One of these is the disc to be reviewed here.

It offers an attractive programme. It is a mixture of pieces well-known and/or seldom performed or recorded. Among the former are the carols on English texts, like 'Away in a manger' and 'O little town of Bethlehem'. Most of them are even performed in the arrangements which are commonly known, like 'O come, all ye faithful' and 'The first Nowell', which are sung here in versions by David Willcocks. The most popular song, 'Stille Nacht', is also present.

There are also little-known gems here, like the three-part motet 'Nun freuet euch, ihr Arm und Reich' by Adam Gumpelzhaimer, a composer who most of his life worked in Augsburg in Bavaria. He was highly respected by his peers, but today is virtually forgotten. Even lesser known is Samuel Seidel, who worked in Glashütte in Saxonia, and whose works were widely performed in that region. Better known is Michael Praetorius, another composer on the verge of renaissance and baroque. He is represented by three pieces.

One of them is a setting of 'Es ist ein Ros entsprungen', whose text is a folksong from the Tirol. It has given this disc its title and is the core of the programme, as it returns twice. In the middle is a setting by Alban Berg, using a slighty different text than Praetorius. The last item is rather curious: it is a vocal transcription of a chorale arrangement for organ by Johannes Brahms. It works well, and I think it is an interesting addition to the choral repertoire.

Schubart's 'Schlaf wohl, du Himmelsknabe' is notable in that it expressively refers to the Passion of Christ and the suffering at the cross. That is an element which has always been an integral part of the celebrations of Christmas by the Christian church but is mostly ignored in programmes with Christmas music.

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 sings the 16th and 17th centuries pieces very well, but equally shines in the later repertoire. Especially nice to listen to are the German pieces by Reichardt and Silcher and the Bohemian song 'Kommet ihr Hirten'.

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.

Johan van Veen 


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