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German Romantic Christmas / Albrecht, Munich Bach Choir


Release Date: 10/27/2009 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 924   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnKarl HoyerAlbert BeckerMax Reger,   ... 
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Described by conductor Hansjörg Albrecht as a "Christmas Fantasia", this program (which he conceived and compiled) is thoughtfully organized not only to present the various parts of the Christmas story but also, by means of 20 carefully selected musical works, to honor and celebrate and recall the traditions of an earlier time--the 19th and early 20th centuries in the small villages in Germany--when Christmas knew nothing of "Jingle Bells" and non-stop shopping but rather was steeped in singing and family, church bells, Christmas treats, preparing for the arrival of Christ, the glow of candles, and the warmth of fires in the hearth. In other words, this is a program that
Read more truly glories in the promise of its title: German Romantic Christmas.

So we hear this marvelous German choir, the Munich Bach Choir, along with a very fine organist, Peter Kofler, and members of the brass section of the Bavarian Radio Symphony supplemented by another Munich group, the Brassensemble München, performing works by Wolf and Reger and Brahms, Rheinberger, Humperdinck, Karg-Elert, and Richard Strauss.

Albrecht also designed the program to take full advantage not only of the singers but of the superb organ--a "jewel of late-Romantic organ construction" known as the Odeon Organ--and the stunning acoustics of the cupola of Munich's St. Rupert Church, where the brass also shine with particularly brilliant resonance. And speaking of acoustics, this is the sort of space that you can "feel", even through your home speakers; and yet it's not of such size and configuration that it obscures or interferes with the ensemble sound of singers and instruments. The extended reverberation (9 seconds!) is agreeable and impressive and the engineers really allow us inside of it so that we do feel that we're there.

Much of this music will be unfamiliar to North American listeners--and some will be very familiar, but with English words rather than the German sung here. It's nice to hear Hark! The herald angels sing as "Hört! Die Engel singen"--and with the Willcocks descant, no less!; or Cornelius' Three Kings sung as "Drei Kön'ge wandern aus Morgenland". We also are treated to Karl Hoyer's organ tour de force (joined by brass and timpani) that opens the disc, Christi Geburt, followed by a perfectly executed a cappella piece by 19th-century composer Albert Becker and a beautifully atmospheric setting of Maria durch ein Dornwald ging (by Becker's grandson, 20th-century composer Günter Raphael), whose sound is eerily enhanced by the acoustic. Richard Strauss' Feierlicher Einzug (otherwise known as Solemn Entrance of the Knights of St. John) is another work whose scoring, for large brass ensemble, suits the space to rousing effect--another excellent programming choice.

In fact, there's not a dull moment nor ill-chosen selection on the program, and the musicianship is first rate by all concerned (the two vocal soloists in Humperdinck's "Evening Prayer" from Hansel and Gretel are notable examples of how everyone involved is focused and assured in technique and interpretation). My only disappointment is that there are no translations provided for the sung German texts; instead we get brief bios of the composers, which is at least useful in understanding the origin of the less familiar works. Nevertheless, the music and performances speak for themselves, and this definitely is one of the year's best new Christmas recordings. Highly recommended.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Anthems (6), Op. 79: Weihnachten by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
2.
Christi Geburt, Op.35 no 1 by Karl Hoyer
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: 20th Century 
3.
Machet die Tore weit by Albert Becker
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
4.
Adventslied: Es kommt ein Schiff geladen by Max Reger
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1899 
5.
Spanisches Liederbuch: no 3, Nun wandre, Maria by Hugo Wolf
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Germany 
6.
Maria durch ein Dornwald ging by Günter Raphael
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Germany 
7.
Little Chorale Preludes (30) for Organ, Op. 135a: no 16, Macht hoch die Tür by Max Reger
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1914; Germany 
8.
Sonata for Organ no 4 in A minor, Op. 98: Andante pastorale by Joseph Rheinberger
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Germany 
9.
Chorale Preludes (11) for Organ, Op. 122: no 8, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Austria 
10.
Hänsel und Gretel: Abends will ich schlafen gehn "Evening Hymn" by Engelbert Humperdinck
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Germany 
11.
Chorale Improvisations (66) for Organ, Op. 65: no 10, Vom Himmel hoch by Sigfrid Karg-Elert
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; Germany 
12.
Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
13.
Weihnachtslieder (6), Op. 8: no 2, Die Hirte by Peter Cornelius
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Weimar, Germany 
14.
Lasst uns das Kindelein wiegen by Max Bruch
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
15.
In dulci jubilo by Traditional
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Medieval 
Written: 12th Century; Germany 
Notes: Arranged Max Reger 
16.
Feierlicher Einzug der Ritter des Johanniter-Ordens, AV 103 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Germany 
17.
Weihnachtslieder (6), Op. 8: no 3, Die Könige by Peter Cornelius
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856/1870; Weimar, Germany 
18.
Quem pastores laudavere by Carl Loewe
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 
19.
Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: 1818; Austria 
20.
O du fröhliche by Traditional
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Choir
Written: Germany 

Sound Samples

Christi Geburt, Op. 35, No. 1 (arr. H. Albrecht)
Machet die Tore weit (arr. H. Albrecht)
12 German Sacred Songs (arr. H. Albrecht): 12 German Sacred Songs: No. 2. Es kommt ein Schiff geladen (arr. H. Albrecht)
Maria durch ein Dornwald ging (arr. H. Albrecht)
Spanisches Liederbuch: Geistliche Lieder (arr. H. Albrecht): Spanisches Liederbuch: Geistliche Lieder: No. 3. Nun wandre Maria (arr. H. Albrecht)
12 German Sacred Songs (arr. H. Albrecht): 12 German Sacred Songs: No. 1. Macht hoch die Tur (arr. H. Albrecht)
11 Chorale Preludes, Op. posth. 122 (arr. H. Albrecht): 11 Chorale Preludes, Op. posth. 122: No. 8. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (arr. H. Albrecht)
Organ Sonata in A minor, Op. 98 (arr. H. Albrecht): Organ Sonata in A minor, Op. 98: II. Andante pastorale (arr. H. Albrecht)
Hansel und Gretel (arr. H. Albrecht): Hansel und Gretel, Act II : Abends, will ich schlafen gehn, "Evening Prayers" (arr. H. Albrecht)
Vom Himmel hoch, Op. 82, No. 2
Hort! Die Engel singen (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) (arr. H. Albrecht)
Weihnachtslieder, Op. 8 (arr. H. Albrecht): Weihnachtslieder, Op. 8: No. 2. Die Hirten (arr. H. Albrecht)
Wiegenlied der Hirten (arr. H. Albrecht): Wiegenlied der Hirten: Lasst uns das Kindlein wiegen (arr. H. Albrecht)
12 German Sacred Songs (arr. H. Albrecht): 12 German Sacred Songs: No. 3. In Dulci Jubilo (arr. H. Albrecht)
Feierlicher Einzug der Ritter des Johanniter-Ordens, TrV 224 (arr. H. Albrecht)
Weihnachtslieder, Op. 8 (arr. H. Albrecht): Weihnachtslieder, Op. 8: No. 3. Die Konige (arr. H. Albrecht)
6 Spruche, Op. 79 (arr. H. Albrecht): 6 Spruche, Op. 79: No. 1. Weinachten (arr. H. Albrecht)
Quem pastores laudaveres (arr. H. Albrecht)
Stille Nacht (Silent Night) (arr. H. Albrecht)
O du frohliche (arr. H. Albrecht)

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