Can you imagine Christmas without music? No singing, no jingling. Only Scrooge would be happy with that! It is a time for music to fill the air. Part of the fun is hearing things that are only played at Christmas and at no other time of year - carols that make you think of the end of term, or the holidays or bobble hats - songs that make you think of food, or snow, or stockings. Here are some of the most popular carols, as well as some other surprises...Merry Christmas!
I have always been a great believer in the importance of presenting music of the highest possible quality regardless of the potential audience. This is done here — for the adult listener there is real interest and fascination in hearing such a wide range of choral styles.
I loved the predictably fine Lutoslawski/ Antoni Wit Polish National RSO & Choir Hurrying to Bethlehem. Again quite a different choral tone. Otto Kotilainen’s Finnish Kun Joulu on is something of a discovery beautifully performed—a lighter tone than the Polish choir but very expressive by the Finnish choir Chorus Resonus. Another virtuoso vocal group prove to be La Petite Bande de Montreal who contribute a brief but virtuosic Carol of the Bells. Jeremy Summerly’s Oxford Camerata are suitably vigorous in the Medieval Gaudete Christus est natus. As indeed is For Unto us from the Messiah from Edward Higginbottom, the Academy of Ancient Music and Oxford New College Choir. This is a delightfully sprung and sprightly version of an old favourite. Most of the carols are sung with little or no accompaniment other than the expected organ or keyboard. This makes the full orchestral version of Vaughan Williams’ Wassail Song particularly enjoyable.
So all in all a disc of palpable hits in terms of music and performance, and certainly something for the stocking of a young relative. No texts or translations are included. Well done to Naxos for producing a disc of great entertainment value but without compromising the artistic merit of it either.