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On a Cold Winter’s Day
see end of review for track listing
Quadriga Consort: Elisabeth Kaplan (voice), Angelika Huemer (recorders and viola da gamba), Karin Silldorff (recorders), Dominika Teufel (viola da gamba), Peter Trefflinger (baroque cello), Laurenz Schiffermüller (percussion), Nikolaus Newerkla (harpsichord and director)
rec. 3-6 May 2012, Gertrudskirche, Gars am Kamp, Austria
CARPE DIEM CD-16293 [58.59]

This disc consists of a mixture of popular old English and Irish carols, traditional Huron and French tunes, works by Thomas Weelkes (To Shorten a Winter’s Sadness), early English dance tunes, Gaelic songs, traditional Irish reels and jigs and traditional Welsh Wassailing songs.
 
There is a beautifully produced booklet and case all in one, printed in greyscale on matt recycled paper, which also includes slightly grainy but nevertheless very atmospheric photographs of the artists. The liner-notes themselves are good and interesting; explaining the group’s specific interest in old English and Irish traditional tunes and divulging the inspiration behind some of the arrangements. However, I did find the notes a little too gushing about the Consort; and at times, they come as across more like an agent’s sales pitch than anything else.
 
Whilst the booklet includes the words of songs (as well as German and French translations of texts), there are no artist biographies, just a website link. Visiting this, one finds a very restrained and simple, yet effective, website - visually clear and absolutely free from clutter. The Consort does, however, take this simplicity slightly to extremes as there are also no biographies of the individual musicians; frustrating for anyone who wishes to know anything about the players; such as where they are from; what else they do, or where / with whom they trained.
 
All of the arrangements (made by Nikolaus Newerkla, the harpsichordist and director of the group) are for early music ensemble, including recorders, viola da gamba, baroque cello, percussion and harpsichord. I was rather impressed by the arrangements, all of which tend to work well and are very effective - such as the very atmospheric opening track, A Wassail, a Wassail, a traditional English Wassailing song, which uses a melody from John Broadwood’s well-known collection Old English Songs (of 1843).Other particularly impressive songs here include the haunting Huron traditional song ’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime; Pat-a-Pan - which uses English lyrics and a French melody -with its heavy percussion and interweaving recorders; and the Quadriga Consort’s rendition of The Holly and the Ivy. This Christmas carol, over time, has assumed various melodies; here, it is set to a traditional French tune and includes a newly-composed second section by the arranger. A far cry from the more upbeat version that we know - and an even further one from John Gardner’s exultant version - I found this both refreshing and very effective; its restrained sense of mysticism evoking a sense of wonder and magic.
 
The vocalist, Elisabeth Kaplan, has quite a sweet and breathy voice, which gives the disc almost more of a folky than a classical feel. If she is not English, then her English accent is very good indeed. The only criticism I can level at her is of scooping occasionally, and a tendency to sing just slightly below the notes. The instrumental performances also generally lack unity and precision of articulation, yet this may well partly be the very informal, flexible style that this rather folk-like group affects.
 
On the whole, this is a disc that I enjoyed listening to and no doubt will return to again come the appropriate season.
 
Em Marshall-Luck   

See also review by Gary Higginson

Track listing (all arr. Nikolaus Newerkla)
ENGLISH TRADITIONAL A Wassail, a Wassail [2.38]
HURON (CANADIAN) TRADITIONAL ’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime [3.16]
ENGLISH TRADITIONAL The Moon Shines Bright [3.13]
Turlough O’CAROLAN (1670-1738) Tune No 176 [1.26]
ENGLISH (Lyrics) / FRENCH (Tune) TRADITIONAL The Holly and the Ivy [4.05]
SCOTTISH TRADITIONAL A Naoidhe Naoimh (O Holy Child) [2.48]
Thomas WEELKES (1576-1623) To Shorten Winter’s Sadness [3.09]
IRISH TRADITIONAL Don Oíche Úd I mBeithil (That Night in Bethlehem) [3.55]
IRISH TRADITIONALS Christmas Eve / Christmas in Killarney / Christmas Day in the Morning / The Day Before Christmas [3.24]
ENGLISH (Lyrics) / FRENCH (Tune) TRADITIONAL Pat-a-Pan [1.51]
SCOTTISH GAELIC TRADITIONAL Tàladh ar Slànaighear (Our Saviour’s Lullaby) [2.38]
IRISH TRADITIONAL On a Cold Winter’s Day [2.20]
ENGLISH TRADITIONAL A Babe is Born All of a Maid [4.43]
Nikolaus NEWERKLA (b.1974) This is the Truth Sent from Above [3.42]
ENGLISH (Lyrics) / IRISH (Tune) TRADITIONAL Wexford Carol [6.10]
WELSH / ENGLISH TRADITIONAL Gower Wassail [3.27]
ENGLISH TRADITIONAL Drive the Cold Winter Away [2.41]
ENGLISH TRADITIONAL Deck the Hall [2.22]

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