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An American Christmas / Joel Cohen, Boston Camerata


Release Date: 11/25/2008 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 516241   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  TraditionalWilliam BillingsPatsy WilliamsonJohn Jacob Niles,   ... 
Performer:  Anne AzémaDaniel McCabeChristopher KaleWilliam Hite,   ... 
Conductor:  Frederick JodryJoel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston CamerataSchola Cantorum BostonBrown University Chorus
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

For those of a slightly adventurous spirit this could be just the thing for a welcome seasonal change.

This is a most interesting and varied collection of Christmas music from the Old World and the New, spanning nearly seven centuries. The key performers are the Boston Camerata, who appear on all three discs and their then-Musical Director, Joel Cohen. Since these discs were made Cohen, who led the ensemble from 1969, has become Musical Director Emeritus and his place has been taken by soprano Anne Azéma, who appears as a most accomplished soloist on several items in each of the three programmes in this collection.

It seems evident that these recitals are the result of a considerable amount of
Read more research into not just the music but also into performance practices. However, there is nothing whatsoever dry or academic about the performances; they teem with vitality and enjoyment.

The American disc contains quite a bit of music that will be familiar to many listeners. In part this is because several of the melodies - if not the words to which they are sung - are familiar European tunes. Thus, for example, we hear an English tune in A Virgin most pure and another one in Sherburne - which turns out to be ‘While Shepherds watched their flocks’. In a neat reversal of this trend, however, the traditional tune, ‘Slow Traveller’ is heard twice and the second time the words are the familiar ones of the Coventry Carol. Much of the music in this collection is sturdy, self-reliant, and clearly music of the people. As such it’s highly evocative of what one might call Pioneer America

I don’t feel terribly qualified to comment on the contents of the second disc since medieval and early Renaissance music are genres to which I’ve never felt greatly attracted. What interests me, however, is the comment by Joel Cohen in his notes to the effect that Christmas time in France was a time when what one might term the “rude mechanicals” rubbed shoulders with the courtly. As Cohen says, “much of the French Christmas repertoire reflects the tumultuous, rough-and-tumble world of ordinary folk on a holiday binge.” So here Cohen and his expert performers treat us to quite a few earthy, festive numbers along with the more sophisticated compositions such as the Dufay Magnificat and the beautifully spun polyphony of the excerpt from Certon’s Mass ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’.

If the American disc was the one that I most enjoyed in this collection, then the one that I found a delightful ear-opener was the third one, devoted to Iberian music. What a pot-pourri this is, reflecting firstly the mélange of cultures and traditions in Spanish music, in which Christian and Moorish traditions mingled. And then, when the Conquistadores crossed the Atlantic the process of cross-fertilisation was repeated, this time with Iberian polyphony meeting indigenous Indian influences. To King Alfonso the Wise (1221-1284) is attributed the composition of over four hundred Cantigas in the Galician language from which a small selection is included here. They are well worth hearing, especially with some of them enlivened by the accompaniment by the traditional Moorish instruments of the Abdelkrim Rais Andalusian Orchestra. We’re on more familiar ground with Victoria’s wonderful motet, O magnum mysterium, though I fancy that many listeners will be as disconcerted as I was by the brisk tempo chosen by Joel Cohen.

The second half of this disc takes us across the Atlantic to Latin America. I suspect I’m right in believing that all the composers featured in this part of the composers were intrepid souls who crossed the ocean for a new life in Spain’s young colonies. They took with them the musical style and syntax with which they’d grown up and it’s the subsequent fusion with the languages, rhythms and instruments that they found out there that makes some of the music they wrote so fascinating. I particularly enjoyed Tarara, tarara, an exuberant dance-like piece, with colourful percussion enlivening the mix, and Los coflades de la estleya, in which the story of the Three Wise Men is set to vibrant Latin American rhythms. Like so much else on this disc, this latter piece is performed with evident relish. That’s certainly true of the last offering, Convivando está la noche, a piece I’ve heard before. After a deceptively slow and solemn opening the music erupts into vivacious joy. It makes a splendid conclusion to the recital.

These three discs are packed with unfamiliar music, superbly performed, which will entertain and intrigue at the same time. For those of a slightly adventurous spirit this could be just the thing for a welcome seasonal change.

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International

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Works on This Recording

1.
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme "Watchman of Zion" by Traditional
Performer:  Anne Azéma (Soprano)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Germany 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: English 
2.
Kingsbridge by Traditional
Performer:  Daniel McCabe (Baritone), Christopher Kale (Tenor), William Hite (Tenor),
Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone)
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1760; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: English 
3.
Bozrah by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Daniel McCabe (Baritone), Elizabeth Anker (Alto),
William Hite (Tenor)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1854; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Language: English 
4.
In those days came John the Baptist "Baptismal anthem" by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Daniel McCabe (Baritone), Elizabeth Anker (Alto),
William Hite (Tenor), Anne Azéma (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1844; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Language: English 
5.
Hark! hark! what news the angels bring by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), William Hite (Tenor), Frederick Jodry (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Frederick Jodry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1798; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Language: English 
6.
A Virgin most pure by Traditional
Performer:  Daniel McCabe (Baritone), William Hite (Tenor), Anne Azéma (Soprano)
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Boston
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Language: English 
7.
Boston by William Billings
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston
Period: Classical 
Written: 1770/1778; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Language: English 
8.
Heavenly courtier by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Cohen (Guitar), Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Jesse Lepkoff (Guitar)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1805; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Language: English 
9.
Pretty home by Patsy Williamson
Performer:  Elizabeth Anker (Alto)
Conductor:  Frederick Jodry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Language: English 
10.
The midnight cry by Traditional
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Language: English 
11.
Wayfaring stranger by Traditional
Performer:  Jesse Lepkoff (Flute)
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 24 Secs. 
12.
Slow traveller by Traditional
Performer:  William Hite (Tenor), Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Daniel McCabe (Baritone)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1805; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Language: English 
13.
I wonder as I wander by John Jacob Niles
Performer:  Daniel McCabe (Baritone), Joel Cohen (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Language: English 
14.
Lully, lulla, thow littel tyne child "Coventry Carol" by Traditional
Performer:  Anne Azéma (Soprano), Elizabeth Anker (Alto)
Conductor:  Frederick Jodry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 4 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: English 
15.
Lovely vine by Traditional
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1805; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Language: English 
16.
Adeste fideles "O come, all ye faithful" by John Francis Wade
Performer:  William Hite (Tenor)
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1782; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: English 
17.
Still water by Traditional
Performer:  Elizabeth Anker (Alto), Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Daniel McCabe (Baritone),
Anne Azéma (Soprano), Jesse Lepkoff (Guitar), Joel Cohen (Guitar),
Robert Mealy (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1878; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Language: English 
18.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1592; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: English 
19.
Sherburne by Daniel Read
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Language: English 
20.
Shepherds rejoice "Auld lang syne" by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Christopher Kale (Tenor), William Hite (Tenor)
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Language: English 
21.
Fulfilment by Traditional
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston
Written: by 1867; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 1 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: English 
22.
Hush my babe, lie still and slumber by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Joel Cohen (Guitar)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1849; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Language: English 
23.
Jesus, the light of the world by Traditional
Performer:  Joel Frederiksen (Bass Baritone), Christopher Kale (Tenor), William Hite (Tenor),
Daniel McCabe (Baritone)
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1890; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Language: English 
24.
Joy to the World by Lowell Mason
Conductor:  Joel Cohen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata,  Schola Cantorum Boston,  Brown University Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts 
Length: 2 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: English 

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