Collection: The Christmas Album
COMPOSERS: Edmund Pascha,Marc-Antoine Charpentier,Michael Praetorius,Traditional
WORKS: Festive Music from Europe and America
PERFORMER: Taverner Consort, Choir & Players/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54529-2 DDD
The thought of another Christmas carol album may make your heart sink, but this one, from Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort, Choir and Players, offers an unusually diverse and attractive collection of seasonal music from Europe and America.
The selection begins and ends with some hearty pieces by the 18th-century Bostonian composer William Billings, an unfortunate fellow who was ‘short of one leg and with one eye’. The raw simplicity of these is offset by more sophisticated art music from Europe, the highlight of which is an enchanting performance of Charpentier’s Cantata on the Nativity of Christ. There’s also 17th-century Lutheran music by Praetorius, and a curiosity from Slovakia – the Gloria from Edmund Pascha’s Christmas Mass, in which the familiar Latin text is punctuated by the sound of shepherds singing in the vernacular and playing their instruments, which include – believe it or not – an alphorn.
The year of Columbus’s anniversary means the obligatory offerings from Spain and the New World, one of which is a foot-tapping number by Francisco de Vidales, originally written for a trio of Mexican nuns. Andrew Parrott has obviously put a considerable amount of thought into the performance of each of these works, and he is amply rewarded by his musicians, whose joyful response is of the highest quality. Kate Bolton