|Once as I remember
John Eliot Gardiner / Monteverdi Choir
Maestro Sir John Eliot Gardiner gets nostalgic, recreating the Hardyesque musical
atmosphere of the annual Christmas nativity play held in his childhood home in Dorset,
England. It helps to know that Gardiners family were fabulously rich owners of huge
rural estates, a fact not mentioned in the mawkish liner notes. At Christmas the
neighbours would gather to watch the children act out nativity scenes, followed by choral
singing. The singing on this disc is as exquisite as it is varied, including Latin motets,
plainsong, madrigals, and traditional English, German and Basque carols.
Telemann : St. Mark Passion / Magnificat
Kurt Redel / Pro Arte Orchestra
Philips DUO 462-293-2
Telemanns St. Mark Passion is a wonderful discovery, full of catchy tunes,
beautiful arias and great choruses. This generally fine recording from 1963-64, has great
recorded sound. The Choeur des Jeunes de Lausanne and the orchestra are admirable, with a
good soprano and tenor but shaky baritones.
The Greatest Christmas Show on Earth
This modestly titled 2-CD album is a kitschy pot-pourri of Xmassy tracks from the London
catalogue, including lots of miscellaneous choir music and the often macabre crossover
efforts of Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi and Joan Sutherland.
A Baroque Christmas
The Baroque Players of Hamilton
ATMA ACD 22174
A cute and mellow collection of English, French and German Christmas carols, sung by
soprano Carolyn Sinclair, backed up a baroque quartet of flute / recorder, violin, cello
and harpsichord. Sinclair sings with honest feeling in a clear churchy soprano, pleasant
but slightly harsh at the top. The Baroque Players have a crisp sense of style and
phrasing. Notes in French and English.
Pastorales de NoŽl
Rita Costanzi, harp (Skylark 9400CD)
Christmas carols arranged for harp is a novel idea. Rita Costanzi, until recently
principal harpist of the Vancouver Symphony, plays this traditional program (including her
own arrangements) with taste and delicacy. Four of these numbers were commissioned from
University of Victoria Professor Ian McDougall for this CD. If you like tranquilizing
background music, this is for you.
Per la Notte di natale : Concertos and Cantatas for
Simon Standage / Collegium Musicum 90 (Chaconne Chandos CHAN 0634)
This is an engaging album of renaissance Christmas music for large chamber orchestra (20
musicians). The program - concertos by Corelli, Vivaldi and Manfredini and cantatas by
Scarlatti and Telemann - are of only middling musical interest . Soprano Susan Gritton is
okay, Standages band play well, and the recorded sound is good.
Carols from the Old and New Worlds (Vol. 2)
Paul Hillier / Pro Arte Singers
harmonia mundi HMU 907233
Paul Hillier, best known as the leader of Theatre of Voices, leads the Pro Arte Singers
(choir in residence at the Early Music Institute, Bloomington) in his second album of
English-language carols and hymns. Stylistically Hillier includes something for everyone :
22 English and American unaccompanied carols dating from the 15th-century to the
19th-century, including the lively Coventry Shepherds Carol, rurual English hymns,
shape-note singing (reminiscent of Acadian / Maritime folk music) and New England Puritan
and Shaker hymns. The emotional impact of these spare, Puritanical verses is maximized by
the ethereally beautiful sound produced by the Pro Arte Singers. Choral buffs will want
this album, though one can certainly weary of this non-stop, a capella optimism.