Notes and Editorial Reviews
CHRISTMAS WITH THE ACADEMY
Neville Marriner (cond); Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields Ch & O; Laszló Heltay (ch master)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 6555 (60:55)
The primary function of a Christmas carol album, I’ve come to believe, is to be ignored. And the better the album the more likely that will be its fate. By “better” I mean neither inclined to gimmickry nor tethered to a particular performer’s star appeal. In other words, a disc that focuses on the songs themselves, most of which, after all, are relatively artless, rather
than the presentation. All carol collections are arranged to some extent, but one hopes for arrangements that don’t overwhelm the source material. Such an album is the one you’ll play while you are entertaining guests or opening gifts, when your attention is rightly directed elsewhere. The best efforts of the best-intended musicians inevitably fade into the background. When is the last time you actually listened to the Christmas music at the mall?
Christmas with the Academy
is bound to be ignored because it’s good enough to warrant repeated hearings. Perhaps the recorded church bells that bracket its 20 carols—along with the three excerpts from Bach’s
L’enfance du Christ
that add an artsy touch—qualify as a gimmick, but they are harmless. The carols, most but not all familiar, come from England, France, and Germany.
or more properly
is sung in German, but in its modern form. Harold Darke’s, not Gustav Holst’s,
In the Bleak Midwinter
prevails. There’s a grateful mix of solo and choral singing, usually accompanied, but occasionally not. Performances could not be better. It’s a good bet that this disc will be playing when our clan gathers around the tree this Christmas. I’ll listen to it later.
FANFARE: George Chien
Be the first to review this title