If you're a choral/Christmas music fan and you've somehow managed not to own at least two or three recordings of the famed Choir of King's College, Cambridge in its world-renowned Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, this one from Christmas Eve 2008 is a fine place to start your collection. For one thing, several of the most time-honored repertoire standards are here, including Boris Ord's Adam lay ybounden, Herbert Howells' A Spotless Rose, and John Rutter's now-classic What sweeter music. Ravenscroft's somber but efficiently elucidative anthem Remember, O thou man, which church choirs all over the world love to hate--but sing anyway--makes an appearance, along with Vaughan Williams' quietly lovely Wither's Rocking Hymn, the HieronymusRead more Praetorius setting of In dulci jubilo (in an arrangement by Philip Ledger), Lennox Berkeley's I sing of a maiden, and Judith Weir's always striking Illuminare Jerusalem, (those trebles are particularly impressive!).
Of course, under ideal recording conditions certain details of ensemble might be just that much more refined, but these are small details, and the choir is very well recorded. Yes, there are also the usual appurtenances of a live church service--the congregation singing slightly behind the organ in the several congregational carols, the occasional (distant) cough, but the point here is to capture an occasion--and to give a real sense of the space and atmosphere while presenting the choir (and organ) in the most advantageous and natural manner possible. And this is exactly what the performers and engineers deliver.
It's nice once again to hear Rutter's What sweeter music sung by the choir--and on the occasion--for which it was written in 1988. Rutter has described his most popular anthem as "a little fragile" and "actually not all that easy to sing well"--and although this is one of the better performances of What sweeter music on disc--exquisite phrasing, gorgeous vocal tone from all sections--you do notice the fragility in the trebles' slightly imperfect intonation at one brief moment in the middle of the piece; but then, these same voices are near-perfect throughout, as their intonation at the end of Wither's Rocking Hymn (Vaughan Williams) and their stellar performance of the difficult Weir anthem illustrate.
Typically there are a couple of "new" pieces in the Lessons & Carols program, in this case the more engaging one is Dominic Muldowney's Mary, its text from Bertolt Brecht. New to me is Alan Bullard's delightful, excitedly scurrying Glory, alleluia to the Christ Child, a terrific piece that should be in every serious choir's Christmas repertoire. And of course, this newest document of one of the most revered Christmas traditions should be in every serious choral listener's library.
In dulci jubilo, BWV 729by Johann Sebastian Bach Conductor:
Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Baroque Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany
Once in royal David's city (processional hymn)
Bidding Prayer - The Lord's Prayer - Blessing
If ye would hear the angels sing
First Lesson - Genesis 3
Remember, O thou man
Adam lay ybounden
Second lesson - Genesis 22
Angels from the realms of glory
Canticum Beatae Mariae Virginis seu Magnificat (Hamburg, 1602): In dulci jubilo
Third Lesson - Isaiah 9
Nowell sing ye now
Unto us is born a Son
Fourth Lesson - Isaiah 11
A spotless rose
Fifth Lesson - St Luke 1
I sing of a maiden
Sixth Lesson - St Luke 2
Wither's rocking Hymn
What sweeter music
Seventh Lesson - St Luke 2
Infant holy, Infant lowly
God rest ye merry gentlemen
Eighth Lesson - St Matthew 2
Glory, alleluia to the Christ Child!
Ninth Lesson - St John 1
O come, all ye faithfull
Prayer & Blessing
Hark! The herald-angels sing
In dulci jubilo BWV 729
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Another fine 9 Lessons & Carols from KingsJanuary 7, 2014By Gerald M. (Rockville, MD)See All My Reviews"A very fine recording in the tradition of Kings College, Cambridge, of their Christmas Eve service."Report Abuse
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