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Die schönsten Weihnachtslieder (The most beautiful Christmas songs)
Peter Schreier, Semper Brass Dresden, Concerto Köln, Ludwig Guttler, Dresdner Kreuzchor, Thomanerchor Leipzig & Windsbacher Knabenchor, Vocal Concert Dresden
BERLIN CLASSICS 0301171BC [4 CDs: 222:27]

The Christmas music and carols from Germany will be very familiar to the listener and evoke the traditional sounds of the festive season. The fact that it is sung in German is of little consequence. It is difficult to categorise the separate discs as there is much overlap in the style of singing and their titles have little bearing on their content. I wrestle with a title of ‘Christmas Bakery’ for one of the discs as all musical items match the type found on the other discs.

The set contains some really beautiful singing. The choirs are generally placed as heard in a cathedral setting and this suits the harmonies delivered. I personally would opt for slightly closer miking for the choir, particularly in the first number of CD3, but this is all a matter of taste.

There is much incisive playing by the strings of the Concerto Köln with strident brass in the majestic opening orchestral track of CD4. The gentle pastoral elegance of Pastorale per la Notte di Natale is quite atmospheric (tr. 4). There is excellent tone in the choir’s part-singing where the harmonies are superb. Of their many delightful numbers perhaps some of the most memorable choral numbers are those sung by the St. Thomas’s Church Boys Choir of Leipzig, especially the endearing rendering of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen of CD1 (tr. 5) and their tender delivery of Pachelbel’s Maria durch ein Dornwald ging of CD2 (tr. 18). The Dresdner Kreuzchor are equally proficient and delight with their performances of Händel’s Tochter Zion, freue dich (Thou art the glory, ever living Lord) of CD2 (tr. 1) and Schulz’s Ihr Kinderlein kommet with its soaring top notes of CD3 (tr. 9). A sprinkling of solo items is included by tenor, Peter Schreier, who is a conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden orchestra. As a child he sang alto solos for the Dresdner Kreuzchor with whom he now sings, decades later.

What I like is the producer’s juxtaposition of tracks where is much variation sometimes brass, sometimes woodwind and punctuated with vocal numbers where unaccompanied choir is followed by numbers with choir and brass or choir and orchestra/organ. Perhaps the only thing that does not sit well are those vocal numbers with soloist because the soloist placing is understandably closer to the microphone and does not match the acoustic set for the choir vocals. Sadly, the recordings of cathedral bells (glocken) that open and close two of the discs are far from ideal. There are sometimes up to three repeats of the same musical piece, but they are different versions and only once in the four CD set is the same track repeated.

Raymond J Walker

Traditional Fröhliehe Weihnacht überall
J. A. Schulz Ihr Kinderlein kommet (Dresdner Kreuzchor)
P. J. Vejvanovsky Sonata Natalis in C, Allegro - Adagio - Allegro (Concerto Köln)
Traditional O Tannenbaum
M. Praetorius Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
J. H. Schein Vom Himmel Hoch (Blechbläserensemble Ludwig Güttler)
F. Silcher Alle Jahre wieder (Vocal Concert Dresden)
Traditional O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf
Traditional Still, still, still (Peter Schreier, Staatskapelle Dresden)
Traditional Kommet, ihr Hirten
J. Annegarn Lasst uns froh und munter sein
Traditional Süßer die Glocken nie klingen
Traditional Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann
M. Praetorius Vom Himmel hoch, O Englein kommt
C. Thiel ln dulci jubilo (Dresdner Kreuzchor)
J. H. Schmelzer Sonata Natalis in D (Blechbläserensemble Ludwig Guttler)
Traditional Herbei, o ihr Gläubigen
E. Ebel Leise rieselt der Schnee
F. X. Gruber Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
J. S. Bach O Jesulein zart
R.Grosjean Il est né le divin enfant
Traditional O du Fröhliche (Dresdner Kreuzehor/Dresdner Philharmonie)

G. F. Händel Tochter Zion, freue dich
Traditional Süßer die Glocken nie klingen
F. Silcher Alle Jahre wieder (Vocal Concert Dresden)
A. Bruckner Ave Maria
Traditional Kommet, ihr Hirten
Traditional O Tannenbaum
J. Eccard O Freude über Freud
M. Reger Es kommt ein Schiff geladen
M. Praetorius Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
J. A. Schulz Ihr Kinderlein kommet
M. Praetorius Joseph, lieber Joseph mein (Andreas HuHweck)
J. Eccard In dulei jubilo
Traditional O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf
J. S. Bach Weihnachtsoratorium: Wie soil ich dich empfangen
Traditional Still, Still, Still (Vocal Concert Dresden)
J. H. Schein Vom Himmel hoch
J. P. Sweelinck Hodie Christus natus est
J. Pachelbel Maria durch ein’ Dornwald ging
E. Ebel Leise rieselt der Schnee
Traditional Freu dich, Erd' und Sternenzelt
R. Mauersberger lch steh an deiner Krippen hier
F. X. Gruber Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Traditional O du Fröhliche
Glocken der Dresdner Kreuzkirche

J. Annegarn Lasst uns froh und munter sein
Traditional Süßer die Glocken nie klingen
Traditional Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann
J. H. Schein Vom Himmel hoch
J. S. Bach Weihnachtsoratorium: Jauchzet, frohlocket! (Kammerchor der Frauenkirche)
B. Galuppi Adeste fideles (Gemma Bertagnolli/Dresdner Instrumental-Concert)
Traditional The First Nowell (Vocal Concert Dresden)
Traditional Fröhliche Weihnacht überall
J. A. Schulz lhr Kinderlein kommet (Dresdner Kreuzchor)
Traditional Herbei, O ihr Gläubigen
J. S. Bach Weihnachtsoratorium: Herrscher des Himmels (Dresdner Kreuzchor & Philharmonie)
A. Coretli Concerto grosso in G, II.Allegro (Concerto Köln)
Traditional Freu dich, Erd und Sternenzeit
Traditional O du Fröhliche
J. S. Bach Weihnachtsoratorium: Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen (Concentus Vocalis Wien/Virtuosi Saxoniae)
Traditional Kommet, ihr Hirten
I. Berlin White Christmas
S. Nelson Frosty the Snowman
J. L. Pierpont Jingle Bells

Glocken der Dresdner Kreuzkirche
J. H. Schmelzer Sonata Natalis in D
A. Corelli Concerto grosso in G, II. Allegro (Concerto Köln)
J. O. Heinichen Pastorale per la Notte di Natale in A (Virtuosi Saxoniae)
A. Vivaldi Il Riposo – per Il S. Natale, I. AlIegro (Concerto Köln)
M. Praetorius In dulci jubilo
D. Buxtehude Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Lautten Compagney)
M. Praetorius Jubilate Domino
W. Brade Paduane
J. W. Stamitz Sinfonia Pastorale in D, Il. Larghetto (Concerto Köln)
M. Vulpius Kanon über Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
J. H. Schein Von Himmel hoch
A. Vivaldi Concerto in C, II. Largo (Dresden Baroque Soloists)
J. Eccard Ich Steh an deiner Krippe hier (Semper Brass Dresden)
J. S. Bach Weihnilchtsoratorium, Sinfonia (Dresdner Philharmonie)
J. Crtiger Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
G. F. Händel Tochter Zion, freue dich
A. Marcello Concerto in D für Oboe, II.Adagio (Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum)
Anonymous Dlng Dong! Merrily on High (Semper Brass Dresden)
Glocken der Dresdner Kreuzkirche


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