Saturday, December 23, 2006

Simple gifts – a guilt-free Christmas CD


This is the perfect guilt-free Christmas CD. Don’t worry about dumbing down - it has shed-loads of scholarship and musicianship. But don’t worry about muesli and sandals – it delivers demonstration quality sound, has all the favourite Christmas tunes you will ever need, and finishes with one of the great moments of recorded music, the recessional carol In dulci jubilo complete with organ, instrumental ensemble and a very large choir in a 12th century cathedral.

A Mass for Christmas Morning presents a selection of Michael Praetorius’ music arranged as it might have been heard in one the large churches in central Germany in the early 17th century. Praetorius was born into a strict Lutheran family, and his compositions became the musical core of the liturgy of Protestant churches in northern Germany. The Lutheran Mass uses the basic structure of the Roman mass, but with more congregational participation – which gives a great opportunity to produce a sonic spectacular.

The versatile Paul McCreesh compiled the mass and conducts. His Gabrieli Consort & Players uses authentic instruments, and include well-known singers such as Sally Dunkley. The professional artists are supplemented by the excellent Boy’s Choir and Congregational Choir of Roskilde Cathedral (my header photo shows the boys), and these choirs are supplemented in turn by local amateur forces. The recording venue is Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark which provides suitably resonant acoustics, and a perfect organ in the form of a three manual instrument dating from 1554.

The final clincher for this guilt-free Christmas purchase is the price. The recording was made by Archiv in 1994. Which means that in today’s crazy music market where the new is valued above everything else, this CD is now available for mid-price or lower – I paid £7.85 ($15.50) for mine from Caiman in Florida delivered to the UK. Don’t worry about the date of the recording. Like a fine wine this Mass for Christmas Morning simply gets better with age, but unlike claret it gets cheaper at the same time.

Now spend more time in Denmark with a Danish thread
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