These are beautifully executed performances of some rare Christmas music
that were quite new to me, though the genre obviously wasn't. I was weaned
on a fabulous LP by the AAM on L'Oiseau Lyre containing similarly beautiful
music and these works only served to generate nostalgic reminders of the
unique spirit of Christmas. The only quibble is the short timing although
at the rock bottom Helios price, you can't really complain. Telemann's 'Festive
Suite' is a jolly delightful work with a wonderful Overture and Gavotte.
There is also much to enjoy in the traditional Passepied as well as the short
but romping Gigue.
Purcell's music is also highly stimulating and these short interludes from
'Behold I bring you glad tidings' shows the devout aspirations that the young
composer could turn out for any occasion. I was not familiar with Giuseppe
Valentini but his 'Sinfonia a tre' is permeated with typical Vivaldian energy
although Francis and his Seattle players are rather heavy-handed in their
approach. The Torelli piece is duplicated on that ubiquitous AAM CD I mentioned
earlier and although that has the benefit of period instruments, I was rather
enthused by the refreshing style that Francis brought to this beautiful piece.
Another composer who was virtually unknown to me was Gaetano Maria Schiassi
whose lovely Sinfonia Pastorale makes an ideal pastoral ending to this wonderful
disc. Copious notes by Robert Dearling and a stunning reproduction of
Champaigne's 'The Adoration of the Sheperds' set the seal on a definitive
Christmas CD. My only quibble is the short timing but when such wonderful
music is on offer, small becomes indeed beautiful!