7 years ago

Volume 12 - Issue 4 - December 2006

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IChristmas music to

IChristmas music to nourish the hopeful spiritBy Sarah B. HoodDoes the solemn spirit of this year's crop of Christmas music reflect a certain sadness in the world? This year the mailbag brought no comicnovelties; no brash, brassy orchestrations; no Santa Babies. Instead, a preponderance of classical rather than popular music, generally set toa1Tangements better designed to test the mettle of a musical ensemble than inspire a sing-along.In fact, if I had to choose one word to sum up this collection, it would be "consolation" . Two are titled " Rejoice", but in Handel's Messiah, thecall for rejoicing lies in the hope that peace will come, grief and sorrow will be taken from us, and all evil deeds will be not avenged, but redeemed.A good notion for our time, and one that transcends religious boundaries.Rejoice - Voices at ChristmasRon Ka Ming CheungIndependent http://voiceschoir cd/rej oice.htmThis tight ensembleof 19 well disciplinedvoices declarestheir musicalallegiances at theoutset with two versionsof HodieChristus Natus Est;one a Gregorianchant, the other byCanadian Healey Will an. These 2 I unusual selectionsrequire a high level of ski 11 from the performers;an Ave Maria by Bruckner, for example.The only somewhat well-known airs are ahaunting Robert B. Anderson version of TheHuron Carol and Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming,performed here in an up-tempo, rather dissonantversion accompanied by a throbbing droneof reeds. Grownup Christmas music for peoplewho really want to listen.RejoiceVeznivka Choir, Toronto Ukrainian MaleChamber ChoirIndependent ( Christmas Story/Conte de NoelCaroline Leonardelli, Ottawa Bach Choir,Lisette CantonCantaur Classics CEN 1004NoelAnne Sofie Von Otter, Bengt ForsbergDeutsche Grammophon 4775725,.,Here we are presentedwith less familiarrepertoire ofFrance, Ukraineand the Scandinaviancountries."Rejoice" would bea good gift choice,and not only for itsattractive cover. Ididn' t recognize a single tune and don't understandUkraini an, but the melodies nonethelessconjured up the wintry festi val season just asc learly as the song titles, like The Stars ShoneFrom Heaven and Wondrous Tidings. Evocativeand stirring.The second, named for a piece by Belgian composerAlphonse Hassel mans, is among my favouritesof this year for its bell -li ke simplicity,84especially in severalFrench tunes thatharpist Leonardelliknew from her childhoodin France.Standouts: a lovelyrendition of Carol ofthe Bells for harpand soprano soloist,• and a God Rest YeMerry Gentlemenwith a twinkling harpopening that conjw·esup falling snowflakesin lamplight.Magical; never mawkish.Meanwhile, mezzoVon Otter performs a range from Bach to Sibeliusand Grieg. Her rich, lavishly produced voice is atreat; I particularly enjoyed her interpretation ofthree Yuletide favourites from her native Sweden.Sober and serious, in a good way.The Place of the BlestThe Oakville Children's Choir; SheldonRose; Janet Stachow; Glenda CrawfordIndependent( www .oakvillechildrenschoir .o rg)Another exceptionalCD from this youthfulensemble withsome very grownupmaterial, like ThePelican (Part ofRandall Thompson's"The Place of theBlest"), about theparent bird that kills its young, then revivifies themwith its own blood. As usual, this large choir'sexpression, blend and attention to dynamics areexemplary in sophisticated pieces like Rutter'sJesus Child and Palestrina's Hodie ChristusNatus Est. Together, these selections hint al atheme (appropriate to the season) of childish innocencedelivering adults from their cares.Sounds of ChristmasMichael Burgess; Hilario Duran; TorontoPolice Association Male ChorusKoch/Nevada Entertainment NEV-CD-019The popular Burgess sounds oddly tired in thi sIi ve recording of standards ( 0 Holy Night, WhiteChristmas , Have Yourself A Merry LittleChristmas). Even scintillating Cuban jazz pianistDuran seems subdued by the TPA Male Cho-WWW. THEWHOLENOTL COM,/rus' rather literalrendition of FelizNavidad. However,a Burgess fanwill enjoy it, and it'sin aid of a goodcause (the OrganDonation andTransplant Association).If you planto offer it as a gift, though, you might want topresent the enclosed organ donation form separately.Handel - MessiahAcademy of Ancient Music;Choir of New College Oxford;Edward HigginbottomNaxos 8.570131-32You can al ways useone more Messiah,and this one's delightful.Using trebleboys' voices insteadI \ ~ P I !of adult so­pranos (as Handelapparently wasknown to ha vedone) gives this onean agreeably spare, pared-down quality. It'sbriskly paced without seeming rushed, and thelight boys' voices give it a quiet energy.Christmas Time With OletaOleta AdamsKoch KOC-CD-4178A pleasant surprise:sweet and soulfulcon tern por a rytunes from anAmerican vocalist Ididn't know before.Adams has an expressive,intimate,slightly husky voice,used with great professionalismin this bittersweet collection. A highlight:The IE 's Still My Joy, a pop ballad with heartabout the inner joy that can survive grief. There'sa soulful Christmas Time ls Here (the CharlieBrown theme), ajazzy l WonderAs l Wander,and a few unabashedly cheerful tunes, like LetIt Snow and Winter Wonderland.CONTINUED ON PAGE 86D ECE MBER 1 2006 - F EBRUARY 7 2007

ANALEKTATHill '.FINEST CANADMNMUSCOIANSTravel is more than just A to B. Travel should help you hit all of life's high notes.Before the curtain rises, fall for the Pre-Theatre Express Menu at Tundra,steps aw'D' from Toronto's opera house and entertainment district.Award- winning cuisine&: wine await from 5 to 10:30 pm daijy.Cocktails&: tapas in Tundra Bar until 11 :30 pm daijy.For reservations call (4 16) 860-6800®HiltonTorontoTravel should take yo u plac esTUNDRA145 Richmond Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5H 2L2 Te l: (416) 869-3456 • Fax: (416) 869-3187The World's Leading Classical Music Label!Iii Iii Iii !Ii iii Iii I!! !11111'iffif 'iffif 'iffif 'iffif 'iffifNAXOS1111 111 1 11 1111 11 1111 11 1OF CANADA LTD• Over 3,000 titles• All digital recordings• New recordings and compositions monthly• Critical acclaim in all key classical publications• Featuring great Canadian artistsAll this at an astonishingly low price!•...... i\ \ fl ·~ 1 I l >Psalms For The SpiritChoir of St. John's, EloraMatthew Larkin, organNoel Edison, director8557781Antonio VivaldiThe Four SeasonsCho-Liang Lin, violin• SejongAnthony Newman, harpsichord/portatil organ8557920Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et ChloeBordeaux Opera ChorusOreb Nat'I Bordeaux AquitaineLaurent Petitgirard, conductor8570075~::)@)fl@),_(")~~[fl.~~·,~.~_ ..,. ' 'Iw , . I

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