Each autumn I begin my search--actually, it's more waiting than searching--for a new, interestingly programmed choral recording of Christmas music that I can keep close by for frequent listening through the holiday season. It looks like it has arrived with this new release from the excellent Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford and director/composer (under the name Grayston Ives) Bill Ives. Organist Martin Ford also adds fine renditions of several chorale-based solo works by J.S. Bach and Buxtehude in addition to his superbly-wrought choir accompaniments.
The program is well-designed with just enough traditional favorites--Britten's A Hymn to the Virgin; Pearsall's In dulci jubilo;Read more Vaughan Williams' The Blessed Son of God; Mathias' Sir Christémas; Gardner's Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; Mendelssohn's Hark! the herald angels sing (with the classic Willcocks descant)--to comfortably tie the familiar with the many more, less-commonly heard pieces.
And among these are some gems, from Stainer's sweetly lovely How beautiful upon the mountains, Byrd's charming two-part treble motet An earthly tree (with its occasional echoing effects), and Guerrero's vibrant setting of the St. Luke text Pastores loquebantur, to Reger's enchanting lullaby Mariä Wiegenlied (sung by unison trebles with organ) and two works by Grayston Ives--an arrangement of the Italian carol Ninna nanna di Gèsu bambino, and an original setting for full choir of Sweet was the Song, mined from the same harmonic/melodic vein as Rutter's What sweeter music--not a bad thing!
Needless to say, this choir is always a pleasure to hear, and in repertoire such as this you won't find more musically assured or more tonally concordant interpreters. Those trebles are wonderful, and the whole ensemble is ideally balanced, especially well-captured here in relationship to the organ and to the resonant acoustic of the Magdalen College venue. You will listen to this many times, not only this year, but for years after--and hopefully the Reger and Ives pieces will turn up more often on other choir's Christmas programs. (Happily publishers for all the works are identified.)
Traditional English Carols (Vaughan Williams): No 6: The Truth Sent from Above
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day (Gardner)
Hymn to the Virgin (Britten)
Creator alme siderum
The truth from above
An earthly tree
View me, Lord
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland - BWV 659
I look from afar
How beautiful upon the mountains
O come, O come, Emmanuel
A Hymn to the Virgin
The Blessed Son of God
In dulci jubilo
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern - BuxWV 223
Of the Father's heart begotten
Ninna nanna di Gesù bambino
Sweet was the Song
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr - BWV 662
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Hark! The herald angels sing
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A Christmas DelightJanuary 12, 2013By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA)See All My Reviews"This is a well sung recording of carols, some familiar and some not so familiar. It is beautiful from start to finish. The quality and musicianship of the performance is equal to that of Kings College."Report Abuse
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