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A Christmas Bentley adorns the front cover of this seasonal
offering. It’s in British Racing Green, the finest colour in
the world, and is bedecked with the choicest boxes of presents.
It’s not unlike this CD in fact, which offers an Anglo-American
Christmas in recordings culled from a tightly focused two years;
That said, the lion’s share is taken by Stateside bands. Percy
Faith and Billy Vaughn score highly, and the Boston Pops come
a strong third behind them. Britain throws up stalwart offerings
from Melachrino and MantovaniRead more and Wally Stott. Once again the
compilers have gone very coy by calling the last named Angela
Morley with the rider ‘Wally Stott on LP label’. Surely we all
know by now that he had a sex change operation in 1972, but
was previously known exclusively as Wally Stott. Wouldn’t it
be more accurate and appropriate to write ‘Wally Stott (subsequently
Angela Morley)’ or something like that?
Most of the recordings here are very popular indeed. Most of
the tunes too, obviously. Listening to them again, a few things
struck me. There’s a very Grand Guignol start to Percy Faith’s
We Three Kings but it manages to turn nobly stirring
too. His work on Angels from the Realms of Glory, a traditional
nineteenth century English carol threatens at any minute to
turn into a Ron Goodwin flypast march. A celestial choir appropriately
enlivens Hark The Herald Angels Sing, albeit a portentous
organ and cascading strings rather takes it away from its carol
origins under a welter of business. It’s a recurring conundrum;
how to clothe these well loved pieces? Melachrino’s answer is
to submerge Good King Wenceslas under a blancmange of
bells, brassy climaxes, stirring string/bell exchanges and then
to lay on a Stokowskian blitzkrieg at the lines ‘gathering winter
fuel’, before deciding to swing the thing to a conclusion.
In the face of this Stott’s (or Morley’s) arrangement of Snowfall
is ingeniously subtle, whilst Percy Faith’s for The First
Noel goes more for fulsome brassiness—itself attractive.
Vaughn’s Adeste Fideles is reverential, devoid of kitsch,
and his It Came Upon The Midnight Clear gets a chest
swelling orchestration. Melachrino redeems himself via Philadelphia
Orchestra-rich string tone in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,
complete with chattering winds and harp. Mantovani unleashes
his shimmering strings in Waldteufel’s Waltz and we end
with Faith’s arrangement of the Hallelujah Chorus.
This early Festive offering offers plenty of good cheer and
as is well known, it’s never too early to slip something nice
into your stocking.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Jingle Bellsby James Pierpont Conductor:
Period: Romantic Written: 1857; USA Length: 1 Minutes 38 Secs.
We three kingsby John Henry Hopkins Jr. Conductor:
Period: 20th Century Written: England Length: 2 Minutes 10 Secs.
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