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Dresdner Weihnacht
Dresdner Kreuzchor, Dresdner Philharmonie, Kammerchor der Frauenkirche Dresden
Instrumenta Musica, Reußisches Kammerorchester/Martin Flämig (organ)
Semper Brass/Mathias Schmutzler
Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden/Hans Vonk
rec. Dresden, Germany.
No sung texts provided.

Released by Rondeau Production and titled ‘Dresdner Weihnacht’ (‘Dresden Christmas’) this is an engaging album of Christmas themed music by composers such as Praetorius, J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and others, performed by Dresden’s finest vocal and orchestral forces. The album contains traditional hymns to the Feast of the Nativity, timeless Christmas carols, renowned organ music, a celebrated ballet waltz, a magnificent coronation anthem and renowned chorales. Sadly, the release was received too late to be included on the Christmas list, but we are into the new year and I’m still playing it.

Although the album cover shows a typically appealing image of the magnificent Frauenkirche, Dresden in a snowy Christmas scene don’t assume that all the works were recorded at Frauenkirche; I know that some of them were recorded at Lukaskirche and Semperoper. There are five different groups of vocal and instrumental performers in this eighteen-work collection including the world-renowned orchestras Staatskapelle Dresden and Dresdner Philharmonie and the smaller ensemble Semper Brass and the Kern organ at Frauenkirche. Every performance is of high quality and the works have clearly been perceptively chosen.

The combination of the Dresdner Kreuzchor and Dresdner Philharmonie directed by Kreuzkantor Martin Flämig is represented by a single work Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her Mendelssohn’s Christmas cantata, which I especially enjoyed. Based on Martin Luther’s hymn, the work is given a sharply focused performance of significant exuberance. There are a pair of works performed by the Kammerchor der Frauenkirche Dresden and Instrumenta Musica. These are Martin Luther Nativity texts set by two groups of multiple Baroque composers Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland and Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her in which Flämig directs outstanding performances that generate a special glow. My favourite performance from Semper Brass is Johannes Eccard’s Advent motet Übers Gebirg Maria geht in an arrangement for brass by Lars Zobel. Semper Brass, drawn from players from Staatskapelle Dresden and Dresdner Philharmonie and directed by Frauenkirchenkantor Mathias Schmutzler, provide stunning playing that has both impeccable intonation and appealing timbre.

Dresdner Kreuzchor, the boys’ choir of the Kreuzkirche, is directed by Martin Flämig and excels in Franz Xavier Gruber’s much-loved carol Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht. The solo boy treble who I believe is Thomas Nitschke gives a spine-tingling performance of the carol Maria durch ein Dornwald ging. Hard to fault is the solo playing of Martin Flämig at the new Kern organ of Frauenkirche, Dresden with the highlight being J.S. Bach’s Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme sounding remarkable in its colourful, reedy clarity. Directed by Flämig, the Kammerchor der Frauenkirche Dresden and Reußisches Kammerorchester are represented by part of a single work the ‘Sanctus, Benedictus’ from Haydn’s Harmoniemesse which is given a performance of power and nobility which makes me want to hear their recording of the complete score. One of the world’s most famous orchestras, the Staatskapelle Dresden also play here part of a single work the famous ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Hans Vonk conducts the Staatskapelle in an entirely captivating performance full of joy and colour with the strings having a beautiful sheen.

There is a pleasing consistency to these recordings which are satisfyingly recorded with splendid clarity and balance. There is no booklet essay provided just rudimentary information about who is performing each work and there are no recording venues or dates. It comes as no surprise that sung texts are absent too. I notice that the Dresdner Philharmonie is carelessly spelt incorrectly as the Dresdner Philharmoniker.

Splendidly played and recorded, the album ‘Dresdner Weihnacht’ (‘Dresden Christmas’) is a varied and delightful treat and will now be one of my festive music fixtures.

Michael Cookson

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
01. Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her
02 – 07. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
Johannes ECCARD (1553-1611)
(arranged Lars ZOBEL)
08. Übers Gebirg Maria geht
09. Maria durch ein Dornwald ging
Pietro LAPPI (1575-1630)
10. Canzon La Negrona
Multiple composers
11 – 16. Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her
Adam GUMPELZHAIMER (1559-1625)
(arranged Lars ZOBEL)
17. Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her
18. Kommet, ihr Hirten
(arranged Luther HENDERSON (1919-2009)
19. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
20. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
21. Dance from Terpsichore
22. Freu Dich, Erd und Sternenzelt
Percy Eastman FLETCHER (1879-1932)
23. Festival Offertorium
Max REGER (1873-1916)
24. O Jesulein süß
Franz Xavier GRUBER (1787-1863)
25. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
26 – 27. Sanctus, Benedictus, Harmoniemesse
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
(arranged Paul ARCHIBALD)
28. ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’, Oratorium Solomon
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
29. ‘Waltz of the Flowers’, from Nutcracker Suite, op. 71a Ⓖ



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