No sooner had I mentioned in a review that Hugo Distler's motet variations on Es ist ein Ros entsprungen were "inexplicably underperformed", here comes another performance--also an excellent one, joined to an outstanding program that features top-notch ensemble singing and uniformly fine engineering. This terrific Denver-based choir, founded in 1994, has accomplished in ensemble blend and balance, and in the finer details of tone and uniformity of expression, what many choirs spend many more years perfecting (this recording was made in 1998, only four years into the group's existence!).
While the Es ist ein Ros pieces are reason enough to hear the recording (Praetorius'Read more familiar harmonization is sung as a lead-in to the Distler), we're also treated to (dare I say it?) rarely-heard works by C. Armstrong Gibbs (Cradle Song), Alfred Whitehead (This endris night), and the 15th-century Gaspar van Weerbeke (Virgo Maria), along with a world-premiere setting of There is no rose by David Cutforth, who wrote the work for St. Martin's Chamber Choir in 1996. It's tuneful and unapologetically tonal, with nicely shaped, often overlapping melismatic lines that effectively capture the text's gentleness and beauty.
A group of Ave Marias ends the program, highlighted by Robert Parsons' Renaissance masterpiece (so beautifully sung here!) and David Conte's little gem from 1992, concluding with Franz Biebl's version, which you're sure to enjoy if you've managed in the past six or seven years to avoid becoming sick of this now-ubiquitous piece, with its cloyingly schmaltzy, repetitive idea. You won't hear it sung better--and who said a little Schlagsahne ever hurt anyone? More important is the fact that the St. Martin's Chamber Choir is one of the finest American ensembles you'll hear on recordings, and it couldn't represent itself more advantageously than in this repertoire. Christmas and choral music fans--this is one not to miss.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
This is a terrific concept for a Christmas recording: 21 pieces associated with the Virgin Mary. The selections are arranged into four groupings. I. Eight arrangements of 'Es ist ein Ros', one by Michael Praetorius, seven by Hugo Distler. 2. Old English Carols (5) by Parry, Warlock, Armstrong Gibbs, Alfred Whitehead, and David Cutsforth. 3. Marian Antiphons (5) by Victoria, Weerbeke, Brahms, Healey Willan, and Terry Schlenker. 4. Three Ave Marias by Robert Parsons (no relation-he died in 1570), Franz Biebl, and David Conte. A simply marvelous program of un-hackneyed music, fresh and resting in the ears with great beauty. This quiet, simple, mothering music is just right for Christmas Eve.
The Denver-based unaccompanied St Martin's Chamber Choir is a marvel in itself--16 voices, men and women, delicately balanced and blended in a soothing radiance. Texts are included.
-- Charles Parsons, American Record Guide [10/2005]
Also available: A Marian Christmas II
"There's much to savor here, all of it first rate and very well sung -- and you'll be certain to appreciate the discovery of many new and rarely-heard works unduplicated elsewhere in your choral Christmas library. Highly recommended!" -- ClassicsToday.com Read less
Die Weihnachtsgeschichte "Christmas Story": Variations on "Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen" (Praetorius, arr Distler): "Singen wir all Amen"
This Endris Night (Whitehead)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
SpectacularJanuary 3, 2014By Elizabeth W. (Gloucester, MA)See All My Reviews"What other-worldy beauty lies in this album. It is breathtakingly beautiful, very much in the feel of the season, but not the same old same old that you hear everywhere from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas day. Highly, highly recommend this album for those looking for different, delightful Christmas music."Report Abuse