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Brian Wilson

A few seasonal offerings slipped through the net of my December Download Roundup. Most of the downloads here from Passionato were subject to a 15% Christmas Music discount at the time of writing.

A Festival of Lessons and Carols (1958)
Once in Royal David’s City;
Bidding Prayer;
Invitatory from J.S. BACH Christmas Oratorio;
First Lessson;
Adam lay y-bounden;
Second Lesson;
I saw three ships;
Third Lesson;
Gabriel’s Message;
God rest ye merry gentlemen;
Sussex Carol;
Fourth Lesson;
In dulci jubilo;
Fifth Lesson;
Away in a manger;
While shepherds watched;
Sixth Lesson;
O come, all ye faithful;
Seventh Lesson;
Hark, the herald angels sing.
Simon Preston (organ); King’s College Choir, Cambridge/David Willcocks - rec. 22-24 December, 1958. ADD.
[50:18] - from HDTT (CD, DVD and lossless download)

This comes from early in David Willcocks’ reign at King’s, his second year in post, I believe, a vintage period, which makes it well deserving of reissue. For those who want more, after hearing this appetite-whetter, the 2-CD Decca collection of King’s Christmas recordings from Willcocks’ time, some from as long ago as 1959 (Noël 444 848-2, around £7 in the UK) is still available. From a later period, there’s a Classics for Pleasure album, Carols from Kings, again with Willcocks at the helm, available for a mere £3.49 as a download from HMV Digital - here. Start with the wonderfully transferred HDTT programme, however, first.

A commentator on the HDTT website suspects that the programme has been cut to fit on one CD, but the complete Nine Lessons and Carols would not have fit on a 1958 LP - even now the programme regularly is slightly too long to fit on a single CD - and truncation had to be the order of the day. The 7-lesson truncation was established when Argo recorded the service under the direction of Boris Ord in 1953 (RG39 - perhaps HDTT or Beulah will revive that for next Christmas?).

The same writer wonders at the lack of newly-commissioned music, but that was not a feature of the service in 1958. What is unusual is the inclusion of an excerpt from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio as the Invitatory, a practice which I don’t recall having been repeated - perhaps as an undergraduate at the older university in the early 1960s, I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening over in the fastnesses of the East Anglian marshes.

This is early-ish Decca stereo and King’s College Chapel is a notoriously difficult place to record - the BBC transmitted the service in mono only for at least a decade after the advent of stereo radio - but HDTT have done their usual wonders with the sound, as they did with the Ansermet recording of Bizet, a Decca recording of much the same vintage, which impressed Dan Morgan and myself so much that I made it one of my six choices of 2010.

Into This World This Day Did Come. Carols Contemporary & Medieval
Diana BURRELL (b. 1948)
Creator of the Stars of Night *[5:52]
Judith BINGHAM (b. 1952) Annunciation* [6:19]
Stuart MACRAE (b. 1976) Adam lay y-bounden* [5:02]
13th century English Edi beo thu [3:11]
Richard CAUSTON (b. 1971) Cradle Song* [2:54]
Francis POTT (b. 1957) That yongë child* [4:53]
John DUNSTAPLE (c. 1390-1453) Quam Pulchra es [2:12]
Gabriel JACKSON (b. 1962) Salus æterna* [2:54]
16th century English Salvator mundi Domine [3:57]
Howard SKEMPTON (b. 1947) To Bethlehem did they go [2:25]
Judith BINGHAM God would be born in thee [6:06]
John REDFORD (d. 1547) Tui sunt cæli [3:44]
Howard SKEMPTON Into this world, this day did come* [2:50]
William SWEENEY (b. 1950) The Innumerable Christ [3:24]
12th century English Verbum Patris umanatur [1:22]
Diana BURRELL Christo paremus cantica [2:58]
Robin HOLLOWAY (b. 1942) Christmas Carol [6:24]
15th century English Nowell sing we [2:51]
Judith BINGHAM Incarnation with shepherds dancing* [3:58]
Gabriel JACKSON Nowell sing we [2:00]
Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge/Geoffrey Webber/David Ballantyne, Matthew Fletcher & Geoffrey Webber (organ)
rec. 3-5 July 2009, St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast. DDD
*First recording
DELPHIAN DCD34075 [75:28] – from and eMusic (mp3) and (mp3 and lossless)/stream from Naxos Music Library

This download qualifies for all the praise which John Quinn heaped on the parent CD, apart from the lack of the booklet of texts and notes: ‘This is one of the most original and enterprising Christmas discs to have come my way in a long time. Intelligently planned and superbly executed it can be recommended most warmly to all choral music collectors who have an enquiring ear.’ (See full review). With the CD currently available on special offer for £8.50 from our partners at MDT, downloading becomes a less economical proposition: have it for £7.99, eMusic for £8.40 (both mp3), and have it in mp3 at £7.99 and lossless sound at £9.99. Subscribers can listen via the Naxos Music Library.

The Cherry Tree - Songs, Carols & Ballads for Christmas
Prophetarum presignata [1:29]
Nowel syng we bothe al and som [2:59]
Alma redemptoris mater [4:02]
The Shepherd’s Star [2:21]
Newell - Tydings trew [3:58]
Mervele noght Iosep [6:19]
Synge we to this mery cumpane [3:15]
Qui creavit celum [4:21]
A Virgin Unspotted [2:34]
Now may we syngyn [2:45]
Lullay my child - This ender nithgt [3:46]
Star in the East [3:15]
Veni redemptor gencium [5:29]
The Cherry Tree Carol [3:10]
Salve mater misericodie [1:30]
Hail Mary ful of grace [4:28]
William BILLINGS (1746-1800) Bethlehem [2:49]
Anonymous 4
HARMONIA MUNDI USA HMU807453 [58:40] – from eMusic and (both mp3)

This is the latest of several Christmas offerings from Anonymous 4 over the years. It’s almost a cliché now to remark how much variety their different combinations of four voices or fewer can create, this time in a combination of late-medieval and renaissance music combined with American folk distillations of the repertoire. Often the American tradition has preserved the spirit of the music more truthfully than any scholarly research - remember that some of the most ‘authentic’ versions of British ballads were recorded in the Appalachian communities.

The programme ends with a fuguing-tune by William Billings, an early American composer whose music became something of a Harmonia Mundi speciality, though only a sample is left in the catalogue (Paul Hiller: a Portrait, HMX290 7126, budget price).

The recording is excellent. I took some tracks from each of the named sources. All those from HMV Digital are at 320kb/s, as are fewer than half those from eMusic, with the rest as low as 224kb/s.

Cristofaro CARESANA (c.1640-1709) Per la nascità del verbo
La Caccia del Toro [14:34]
La Tarantella (1673) [18:19]
La Pastorale (1670) [14:26]
Orazio GIACCIO (c.1590-c.1660) Pastorale sulla ciaccona (1645) [4:59]
Bernardo STORACE (fl.1664) Passagagli con partite pastorali (1664) [5:15]
Cristofaro CARESANA (c.1640-1709) La Vittoria dell' Infante (1683) [9:07]
Roberta Invernezzi, Roberta Andalò (soprano), Daniela Del Monaco (alto), Giuseppe De Vittorio, Rosario Totaro (tenor), Furio Zanasi (bass), Cappella della Pietà de' Turchini / Antonio Florio - rec. March 1996, Sant'Erasmo Church, Castel Sant'Elmo, Naples. DDD.
NAÏVE Voix Baroque OP30449 [66:47]  - from (mp3)/stream from the Naxos Music Library.

This recording, mostly of the theatrically religious music of the Venetian-born Neapolitan composer Caresana, is a real rarity and well worth investigating. No texts or notes with the download, but Glyn Pursglove’s review – here – will help put the music in context. Apart from the two opening items, everything is labelled pastorale, relating to the shepherds’ part in the Christmas story or, loosely, to the Nativity in general. The final track celebrates the victory of the Christ child. As GPu writes, everything here is a miniature masterpiece. With good mp3 sound, the classicsonline price of £4.99 is a steal. Subscribers to eMusic will find it for even less there, at £2.52. Stream it from the Naxos Library at your peril - it will make you want to buy it.

The new recording of Caresana’s l'Adorazione de'Maggi and some of his other Christmas Canatas on Glossa GCD922601 (I Turchini/Antonio Florio, again) doesn’t seem to have found its way on to download yet.

Machet die Tore weit - Baroque Christmas Cantatas from Central Germany
Johann SCHELLE (1648-1701) Machet die Tore weit [8:27]
Basilius PETRITZ (1647-1715) Die Herrlichkeit des Herrn [13:00]
Philipp Heinrich ERLEBACH (1657-1714) Fürchtet euch nicht [9:58]
Christian August JACOBI (1688- after 1725) Also hat Gott die Welt geliebet [10:23]
Christian LIEBE (1654-1708) O Heiland aller Welt [7:39]
Johann Ernst BESSEL (1654-1732) Komm, du schöne Freudenkrone [8:05]
Birte Kulawik, Dorothea Wagner (sopranos); David Erler (contralto); Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor); Matthias Lutze (bass)
Sächsisches Vocalensemble; Batzdorfer Hofkapelle/Matthias Jung
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, 8-11 June 2007. DDD
CPO 777 332-2 [57:55] – from (mp3 and lossless) or (mp3)/stream from Naxos Music Library.

As John Quinn wrote of the parent CD: ‘This unfamiliar music is most enjoyable and it’s very well served by these sparkling performances.’ (See review). This and the Carus CD below make for most attractive listening, though they are both rather short value. The lossless download is excellent and I have no reason to doubt that the mp3 is, too. If you only want mp3, classicsonline charge only £4.99.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Machet die Tore weit - Cantatas for Advent and Christmas
Machet die Tore weit (I), sacred cantata for chorus, 2 oboes, strings & continuo, TWV 1:1074 [16:49]
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (I), sacred cantata for chorus, 2 oboes, 2 cornets, timpani, strings & continuo, TWV 1:1174 [9:19]
In dulci jubilo, sacred cantata for chorus, 2 oboes, horn, strings & continuo, TWV 1:939 [13:59]
Barbara Ullrich (soprano); Heidi Rieß (alto); Aldo Baldin, Oly Pfaff (tenors); Bruce Abel (bass); Motettenchor Stuttgart; Ensemble 76 Stuttgart/Günter Graulich. - rec. 1979. ADD.
CARUS 83.133 [40:07] – from (mp3 and lossless)

Despite Passionato’s given recording date of ‘January 1992’, Carus actually admit to 1979 on the CD insert. The recording is, especially in lossless format, nevertheless, worthy of the performances, and they of the music. The only drawback is the short playing time. This and the previous CPO album remind us that it was the baroque composers of the generation just before Bach that effectively developed Christmas music, allowing him to build on and excel their achievement.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerti Grossi, Op.3/1-12, L'Estro armonico [95:28]
Concerti Grossi, Op.4/1-12, La Stravaganza [110:42]
Concerti Grossi, Op.8/1-12, Il Cimento dell'armonia e dell'invenzione (including Nos.1-4, I Quattro Stagioni, The Four Seasons [110:18]
Concerti Grossi, Op.9/1-12, La Cetra [110:05]
Christopher Hogwood - rec. 1980-1987. DDD.
DECCA 475 7693 [6:55:14] – from (mp3)

Arguably, Winter, the fourth of Vivaldi’s Seasons, is just as Christmas-y as Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride or Steve Nelson’s Frosty the Snowman in the Grimethorpe recording (below).

I've recently been reviewing the Virgin reissue of Fabio Biondi’s recordings of Vivaldi’s Op.3 and Op.9 - excellent value in a 4-CD box (6484082, around £14.50 in the UK) - but for those who wish to explore a little further, or find Biondi’s version of authenticity just a little too enthusiastic, this Passionato download at £25.99 is even better value. There are moments when Hogwood sounds a little tame beside Biondi - his Winter, Op.8/4, is slightly too mild - but, with excellent performances of Op.4 and Op.9, the two unjustly neglected sets among Vivaldi’s named concertos, in addition to the Op.3 and Op.8 on the Biondi set, the Decca collection merits a strong recommendation, especially as the parent discs are apparently deleted.

Passionato also have just the Four Seasons from the Hogwood set – the only part of the collection to survive on CD – but that’s really poor value.  If the Seasons are all you want, download Trevor Pinnock (period instruments, 474 6162 – from or Neville Marriner (modern instruments, 475 7531 – from, also from Decca, both of which come with added concertos, or buy the recent dal Segno mid-price reissue of The Seasons (Andrew Parrott) plus Andrew Manze in three concertos from la Stravaganza (DSPRCD508).

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas Nos.111 Was mein Gott will (Epiphany 3, 1725) [22:10]; 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (last Sunday before Advent, 1731) [32:13] and 110 Gott ist mein König (Council election, 1708) [19:33]
Theo Adam; Grummer; Höffgen; Kastner; Thomanerchcor, Leipzig; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Thomas - rec. 1959/60. ADD.
BERLIN CLASSICS 009032BC[73:56] – from (mp3 and lossless)

Cantatas Nos.140 Wachet aud, ruft uns die Stimme (last Sunday before Advent, 1731) [24:35] and 147 Herz und Mut und Tat und Leben (Visitation of the BVM, 1723) [28:05]
Michael Chance; Stephen Varcoe; Ruth Holton; Anthony Rolfe Johnson; Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner – rec. 1990. DDD.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ARCHIV 463 5872 [52:40] – from (mp3)

John Quinn recently welcomed Gardiner’s 2000 version of Cantata 140 on SDG171 – see review. I have no doubt that it’s at least the equal of the earlier studio recording here, and I hope to make its acquaintance soon, but it comes as part of a 2-CD package, whilst this Archiv download, in good mp3 sound, is coupled on a single album with the even better-known Cantata 147. (At least the section Jesus bleibet meine Fruede, or ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ is better known). I don’t know how I could have left Wachet auf out of my Christmas downloads in the December Roundup or in last year’s Christmas supplement, especially as it’s my wife’s absolute favourite of all the Bach cantatas.

I couldn’t resist a reminder that enjoyable performances of Bach cantatas are not the sole preserve of the period-instrument movement, by including one of Berlin Classics’ revivals of Thomas’s performances with forces from the Thomas Choir, the descendants of Bach’s own choir, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus. It’s heavier than Gardiner, as reflected in the much longer playing time, but not impossibly so. Passionato also have Karl Richter’s recordings of Advent and Christmas cantatas from much the same period (DGG Archiv 439 3692, 4 CDs).

Johann Sebastian BACH Organ Music
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV645 [3:49]
Passacaglia in cminor, BWV582 [13:19]
Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, BWV721 [4:36]
Piece d'Orgue, BWV572 [9:02]
O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross, BWV622 [5:15]
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV564 [5:35+4:05+8:01]
Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot, BWV678 [5:41]
Prelude and Fugue in E flat, BWV552 [8:33+6:46]
David Hamilton (organ) - rec. February 2010, Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh.
Download includes pdf booklet with organ specification.
DIVINE ART DDA5088 [75:34] - from (mp3 and lossless)

This gets into the Christmas supplement by virtue of its overall excellence - if you're looking for a single-disc introduction to JSB’s organ music, this could well be it - and also because it opens with the Advent chorale Wachet auf. The download from theclassicalshop comes complete with the booklet of notes, which includes the specification of the Canongate organ. David Hamilton’s performances are fully the equal of those on his earlier Divine Art recording of Buxtehude and the lossless sounds is excellent. For those wishing to save £2 by purchasing the mp3 (£7.99 instead of £9.99) I can report that I have never been let down by mp3s from this site.

Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Overture: The Tsar’s Bride (1898) [6:32]
Suite: Pan Voyevode (1904) [23:11]
Suite: Christmas Eve (1895) [27:11]
Overture on Russian Themes (1866; rev. 1880) [11:53]
Suite: The Snow Maiden (1881) [13:08]
Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra/Kees Bakels
rec. November 2004, Dewan Philharmonik Petronas Hall, Kuala Lumpur
BIS-CD-1577 [82:27] – from (mp3 and lossless)

Previously I've recommended Neeme Järvi’s 2-for-1 set of Rimsky’s music, including the Christmas Eve and Snow Maiden Suites (CHAN10369X - see December 2008 Roundup), but, if you don’t want a double helping - good value as that set is - Kees Bakels and the Malaysian PO offer an equally fine alternative for this seasonal music, well recorded and presented in good sound, especially the lossless version. It was on offer at a 25% reduction at the time of writing. As Terry Barfoot concludes, ‘this is an appealing and highly recommendable issue.’ (See review).  Both Järvi and Bakels offer performances worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as the classic Decca/Ansermet versions, now available from Australian Eloquence (480 0827 and 480 0081 – see review).

Don’t overlook the wonderful Opus Arte DVD of Tchaikovsky’s Cherevichki, The Tsarina’s Slippers, from the 2009 Royal Opera Hose Covent Garden production. Based on the same Gogol story as Rimsky’s Christmas Eve, it’s a real Christmas treat. (Opus Arte OA1037D)

Irving BERLIN (1888-1989) Berlin for Brass
Let Yourself Go [2:08]   
Top Hat, White Tie and Tails [3:29]
Blue Skies [3:39]
(I’ll see you in) Cuba [2:30]   
Alexander’s Ragtime Band [3:10]   
What’ll I Do? [3:43]   
Puttin’ on the Ritz [2:46]   
Get Thee Behind Me, Satan [2:34]   
Supper Time [4:33]   
Listening [1:56]
Heat Wave [4:41   
No Strings [2:50]   
Lazy [3:09]
That International Rag [3:14]   
They Say It’s Wonderful [3:30]   
White Christmas [3:33]   
Harlem on My Mind [3:14]  
When I Lost You [2:34]  
There’s No Business like Show Business [2:30]
Chestnut Brass Company
NAXOS 8.559123 [59:43] – from or (both mp3)

What’s this doing in a Christmas Roundup? It’s here by virtue of the fact that it offers a more sympathetic version of White Christmas than the Grimethorpe recording (below) and the fact that Irving Berlin is entertaining at any time of the year. How about Blue Skies and Heat Wave for making you feel warm - unless you're in Australia, where it’s warm enough at Christmas. The track information for the classicsonline version contains the words ‘Berlin - Irving classical composer’. At first I thought that was stretching the word ‘classical’ slightly but, on reflection, the epithet is as fully justified for Berlin as it is for George Gershwin and ‘Duke’ Ellington, to both of whom I'd readily apply it.

This version of White Christmas is slower than the Grimethorpe version, which is appropriate - the words are ‘dreaming of a white Christmas’ after all - but this one takes a bit too long to get underway and tries to be a little too clever for my liking, though the rest of the programme is very enjoyable.

Both sites offer this in mp3 only - for once, there’s no lossless flac from Passionato, but they did have the download on offer at 25% reduction (£3.69) when I last checked. The recording could do with a little more presence - you may find it benefits from a higher volume setting - but that’s not a major problem.

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) A Ceremony of Carols (1942) [22:04]
Elizabeth POSTON (1905-1987) An English Day-Book [19:43]
Oliver Iredale SEARLE (b.1977) On a Summer Night [4:03]
Stephen DEAZLEY (b.1969) The Ears of Mr Tuer [3:09]
National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) Girls Choir/Christopher Bell
Claire Jones (harp)
rec. Caird Hall, Dundee, 2-3 May 2010. DDD.
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD228 [49:06] - from from Naxos Music Library.

This is more for those who wish to explore the Elizabeth Poston coupling than for those looking for the Britten: good as that is, there are better versions at lower prices or more appropriately coupled. My own favourite at the moment comes from The Sixteen, on Hodie (Coro COR16004 – see last year’s Christmas Downloads) where the Ceremony is coupled with other Christmas music by 20th-century British composers, or as part of a 3-CD set (A Christmas Collection, COR16054 – see December 2010 Download Roundup).

I enjoyed the Poston but thought most of the music unmemorable and, in any case, the claim that this is a work for the same forces as the Ceremony of Carols is a little forced - many of the individual works which form the English Day-Book cycle were not originally composed with harp accompaniment in mind. Try this first at the Naxos Music Library if possible.

The classicsonline download comes complete with the booklet of notes and texts, also available to those who stream from the Naxos Music Library.

Vytautas MIŠKINIS (b.1954) Time is Endless
Dum medium silentium [4:37]
O sacrum convivium [4:55]
Pater noster [5:17]
Tenebrae factae sunt [4:26]
Neišeik, saulala (Don’t leave me, sun) [6:16]
Seven ‘O’ Antiphons for Advent [19:04]
Oi šąla, šąla (Oh, it’s getting cold) [7:57]
O magnum mysterium [6:14]
Ave Maria II [3:34]
Salve regina [5:18]
Ave Maria III [3:39]
Time is endless [6:32]
The Choir of Royal Holloway/Rupert Gough - rec. St Alban’s Church, Holborn, London, 7-9 January 2010. DDD
Booklet with notes, texts and translations included as pdf download.
HYPERION CDA67818 [77:57] - from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

I've sneaked this into the Christmas selection by virtue of its opening with Dum medium silentium, the Introit for First Vespers of the Sunday after Christmas and its also containing the Seven Advent Antiphons (O sapientia, etc.) which pave the way for the Nativity in the week preceding the feast. More to the point, it was just too good to leave till the January Roundup: the music of yet another Hyperion/Royal Holloway discovery, the Lithuanian composer Vitautas Miškinis. Remember the name: I'll be disappointed if we don’t hear much more of him in years to come. No Jingle Bells here, just mainly quiet, contemplative and always utterly approachable music, very sympathetically sung and recorded.

A White Christmas with Grimethorpe
Irving BERLIN (arr. Mark FREEH)
White Christmas [2:56]
F. COOTES/H. GILLESPIE (arr. Robin DEWHURST) Santa Claus is Coming to Town [3:09]
Felix BERNARD/Richard SMITH (arr. Gordon LANGFORD) Winter Wonderland [2:59]
Leroy ANDERSON (arr. Ernest TOMLINSON) Sleigh Ride [2:48]
Midge URE /Bob GELDOF (arr. Derek BROADBENT) Do They Know It’s Christmas [3:21]
John D. MARKS (arr. Alan FERNIE) Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer [2:11]
Howard BLAKE (arr. Philip SPARKE) Walking in the Air (from The Snowman) [4:28]
ZACAR / JAY (arr. John GOLLAND) When a Child is Born [3:23]
Sergey PROKOFIEV (arr. Ray FARR) Midnight Sleigh Ride (Troika) [2:34]
Goff RICHARDS Christmas Piece [3:42]
John GOLLAND Dies Natalis, Op. 86 [7:30]
John D. MARKS (arr. Robin DEWHURST) Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree [3:06]
STRACHAN/PAUL/STEWART (arr. Darrol BARRY) Mistletoe and Wine [3:52]
James CURNOW Christmas Triptych [6:12]
Steve NELSON / Jack ROLLINS (arr. Sandy SMITH) Frosty the Snowman [4:21]
Peter GRAHAM The Spirit of Christmas [2:26]
SIMEONE/ONORATI/DAVIS (arr. Philip SPARKE) The Little Drummer Boy [3:50]
Jester J. HAIRSTON (arr. Robin DEWHURST) Mary’s Boy Child [4:10]
Stephen BULLA A Christmas Suite [9:01]
Grimethorpe Colliery Band/Major Peter Parkes - rec.1997. DDD.
CHANDOS BRASS CHAN4550 [77:18] – from (mp3 and lossless)

This is excellent value (£3.60 for mp3, £3.74 for lossless, with 77 minutes playing time) but at first I thought that it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. The playing is excellent but the performance of the opening tracks is - or the arrangements are - a little too ‘clever’ when I was hoping for something with more of an oomph. You'll find that intermittently - at the end of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, for example, and the Prokofiev goes with a real swing in a jazzy arrangement, after which most of the music goes swimmingly, with some spectacular solos. Nobody could possibly un-sentimentalise Mistletoe and Wine or stop it sticking to the teeth and the Grimethorpe Band don’t even try. Those early tracks make this more for late-night listening than for setting a party alight. The lossless download sounds excellent.

In Praise of the Nativity of Our Lord
Troparion of the Nativity [00:58]
Anonymous: Kontakion of the Nativity [02:16]
D HRISTOV: O Gladsome Radiance (Svete tihii) [02:48]
Kiril POPOV (b.1955) Exaltation for the Nativity, for bass & chorus [02:36]
A GRECHANINOV: Voskliknitye Gospodyevi (Make A Joyful Noise) [03:15]
I KOCHETOV: Christ is Born - Obikhod (1st song), small litany [2:11]
Great Prokeimenon, Mode 8 [02:24]
D BORTNYANSKY: Sacred Concerto No. 6 (‘Glory to God in the highest’) (Slava vo vishnikh Bogu) [05:28]
Chant: As Many as Have Been Baptized [05:38]
Kiril POPOV: Iz Kanon za Rozhdestvo Hristovo (from Canon for the Nativity), chant [01:50]
Chant: Anti axion esti, sung at the Nativity [03:15]
Anonymous: Exapostilaria of the Nativity [01:25]
Kiril POPOV: In Praise of the Nativity [5:01]
D HRISTOV: The Birth of Christ [02:03]
Franz Xaver GRUBER: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht (Silent Night) [03:15]
Traditional: A New Joy Has Come, carol from Strandja [02:35]
Traditional: Good Evening [2:16]
D HRISTOV: Christmas Bread [0:50]
Traditional: Christmas visitors [1:06]
A BUKORESHTLIEV: Christmas Carolers 01:36]
D BORTNYANSKY: Many Years [2:01]
Bells [1:07]
Men’s Voices of Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Choir, Sofia/Kiril Popov - rec. 2000. DDD
GEGA NEW GD108 [56:52] - from (mp3)

And, finally, for something different. Some knowledge of Greek and Old Church Slavonic would help, but it’s not essential for enjoyment of this recording of Russian Orthodox music for the Nativity (January 6th.) with full-voiced singing and good recording. The interpolation of Stille Nacht (in Russian, Emglish and German) sounds decidedly out of context, but otherwise this is a most recommendable download, at a snip of a price (£5.99), encouraging me to try to find other recordings of Russian and Bulgarian Orthodox music on this label.



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