This Christmas Night

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Hallgrimsson; Piccolo; Hyde; Turnage; McCabe; Williamson; Martin; Bingham; Allain; Skempton; Jackson; Maxwell; Davies; McDowell; Bush; Lutyens; Rubbra; Leighton
LABELS: Resonus
ALBUM TITLE: This Christmas Night
WORKS: Contemporary Carols
PERFORMER: The choir of Worcester College, Oxford/Stephen Farr
CATALOGUE NO: RES10113

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Tired of the same old seasonal chestnuts? Here’s your solution – a wonderful collection of carols from the last half-century, mainly by British composers. There’s one new commission, by the Icelander Haflidi Hallgrímsson, a touchingly unaffected setting of Joseph and the Angel, starting with sopranos only, then adding a voice part for each verse thereafter. That’s not the only world premiere recording: Maxwell Davies’s splendidly named Fleecy Care Carol is another. A Christmas gift to the Queen in 2010, it finds the Worcester College sopranos soaring in unison melody over a rocking accompaniment.

Turnage, Hyde, McCabe, Williamson, Bingham, Bush and Rubbra are among the other composers featured, and every track is worth returning to.

Two pieces by Mark-Anthony Turnage in particular catch the ear, the tonally explorative Christmas Night, and Claremont Carol, where the words of ‘Silent Night’ are given a more harmonically searching setting. Stephen Farr directs delectably sensitive performances, and the sound is immaculate. Freshen up your iPod or music streamer with this download-only issue for Christmas.

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Terry Blain