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Joyeux Noel
Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon
La Fantasia/Rien Voskuilen
Christian Lambour (organ)
rec. 1996, Grote Kerk, Elburg; Abbey of Neu St. Johann, St Gallen Canton, Switzerland; 2003, Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Canada
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95569 [3 CDs: 184 mins]

The first disc of this three-disc set of French Christmas music is dedicated to Charpentier. It contains his Te Deum H.146, a Dixit Dominus (H.204) and the Messe de Minuit pour Noel. The works feature the Aradia Ensemble (playing on early instruments), conducted by Kevin Mallon and sopranos Jane Archibald, Michele de Boer, Anne L’Esperance, altos Marion Newman and Nancy Reynolds, tenors Colin Ainsworth, James McLennan and David Nortman, and bass Giles Tomkins and Esteban Cambre. The singing and playing is generally of a good standard, although one of the tenors in the Te Deum comes across as rather strangulated and straining, and the tone of one of the bass singers is rather coarse in the Dixit Dominus (singers are not specified in the individual works or movements, so the culprits remain anonymous!).

The second disc comprises Michel Corette’s rather charming Les Six Symphonies de Noel, full of invention, elegance and beauty, and here very well played by La Fantasia, with Rien Voskuilen the conductor and organist—nicely dancing performances of appropriately celebratory works.

The third disc is of organ music, mainly of works taken from books of “noels”. The composers featured here are Dandrieu (Pierre, and his nephew Jean-Francois), Corrette again, Balbastre, Chauvet, Guilmant, Franck, Dubois and Boely. Given the nature of the works, they are generally more “Christmassy” in feel than those in the preceding discs. All are excellently played by Christian Lambour on the organ of a former Benedictine Abbey, at Neu St. Johann in St. Gallen Canton, Switzerland. On the whole, this is a good disc set.

I must confess that my heart rather sank when I saw the swirly gold-lettered cover, with the title Joyeux Noel, expecting a rather cliched disc of Christmas favourites—more saccharine glitz than substance, but this is a well-put together set, with, yes, a few much-loved works, but also a number of pieces and composers that may be unfamiliar to listeners. The booklet notes are better than one usually has in such compilations (although texts are not included for the first disc, there are no artist biographies at all, and I did spot a typo). So for those perhaps looking for something slightly different from the usual carol collections, yet seasonal and festive nevertheless, this would certainly be a possibility.

Em Marshall-Luck

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)
Te Deum [22:04]
Dixit Dominus [8:58]
Messe de Minuit pour Noel [28:48]
Michel Corrette (1709-1795)
Les Six Symphonies de Noel:
Sinfonia I [8:36]
Sinfonia II [7:35]
Sinfonia III [13:49]
Sinfonia IV [10:36]
Sinfonia V [14:06]
Sinfonia VI [7:29]
Pierre Dandrieu (1664-1733)
Puer nobis nascitur [4:21]
Jean-Francois Dandrieu (1682-1738)
Nous sommes en voie [2:00]
Michel Corrette (1709-1795)
Chantons je vous prie Noel hautement [2:57]
Claude Balbastre (1724-1799)
Joseph est bien marie [4.27]
Alexis Chauvet (1827-1871)
Sur un Noel [2:58]
Pour le deuxieme Dimanche de I’Advent [3:54]
Or, dites nous Marie [3:17]
Vous qui desirez sans fin [2:58]
Chantons de voix humaine [4:16]
Noel, cette journee [3:34]
Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)
Noel ecossaise [2:43]
Caesar Franck (1822-1890)
Noel Breton [6:11]
Noel angevin [1:16]
Vieux Noel [2:06]
Noel angevin [1:13]
Theodore Dubois (1827-1924)
Noel [5:15]
Alexandre Pierre Francois Boely (1785-1858)
Dernier Kyrie [1:10]
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei [1:14]
Quoniam [2:02]
Tu solus latissimus [2:11]



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