If you wonder what can possibly be fresh amongst the latest Christmas
CDs, one of the two records I have chosen achieves this almost without trying.
Netherlands Bach Society here musically celebrates a 17th century Christmas
by ignoring the modern craze for deluxe chromatic harnesses around simple
tunes. Our Dutch friends draw upon the huge resources of 17th century choral
music for a delightful celebration of the Nativity. Granted that the performers
have much more of a challenge than a quick warm up on Silent Night
just before a concert or carol service.
But what treasure there is for any choir that cares to dig just below
the surface. Similarly for the listener, various traditions around Europe
brought forth songs, carols, dialogues and hymns for Christmas, each distinct
in form and with its own repertory. Any attempt at revival helps to loosen
the straitjacket of convention. [Click to listen:
Crüger's 'Fröhlich soll mein Herz springen'.]
The embrace of this collection, of course, is primarily upon our ears.
It would be nice to hope that some chorusmaster readers will then be activated
towards future performance. [Click to listen: Buxtehude's
'In dulci jubilo'.] Somebody is bound to point out that audiences /
congregations will protest at the exclusion of some threadbare carols. There
is a perfect answer.
The other CD deliberately follows the
familiar pattern of a Nine Lessons' service complete with the usual musical
trappings. I perceive a purpose: lessons are read by BBC personalities -
Anna Ford, Jeremy Paxman, Michael Buerk, Canon Royle, and so on. Lincoln
has suffered a rough ride in recent years. The music - like the readings
- is excellently performed: expressive in quiet carols, firm and sonorous
in the hymns and exultant music, and still topping the extra brass in climaxes.
[Click to listen: Gardner's 'Tomorrow shall be my
For the many people involved in this recording I hope that sales will
justly reward the effort.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey, November
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