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A Christmas Music Special

Recording Companies seem to have released many more Christmas Music CDs in 2012 than in the past years. The list below gathers the best recent recordings of Yultide music. This is not the kind you hear at your local department store at this time of year and that gets on your nerves. This is Christmas music with style, performed by renowned musicians and choirs. You can’t go wrong with any of these. Even titles like Jingle Bells or O Little Town of Bethlehem are sung or played with great musicianship.

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, sing Advent Music.

This truly is a unique and splendid contribution to Christmas Music. Not only by the uplifting quality of the singing or the rarity and variety of the music offered, but also by the quiet, introspective anticipation of the Nativity, the foundation of the Advent season.
ADVENT AT EPHESUS features sixteen tracks including traditional English and Latin hymns, polyphony, Gregorian chants, Medieval harmonies and one original work by the sisters themselves all sung a cappella. This recording represents a rare and often forgotten approach – one that focuses on music celebrating the quiet, introspective anticipation of the Nativity, the foundation of the Advent season.
If you are looking for an alternative to the secular, often obnoxious Christmas music played in department stores or on the radio, look no further. This is the CD to purchase.

Read the entire review
Listen to Mother Cecilia and the Benedictines of Mary

Christmas Spirit by Mainstreet Brass
This Mainstreet Brass CD is Christmas music with a twist. It seems as if Holiday Season music had been composed to be constantly arranged. This recording is full of humor and original in many ways.

Chants de Noël du monde (songs of Noël around the world)

Ever since its creation in 1999, Arsys Bourgogne has developed a unique project highlighting six centuries of vocal repertoire. They regularly perform all around Europe in the most prestigious venues.
Recorded at Regional Conservatory of Châlon-sur-Saône in the heart of the Bourgogne region in 2010 – 63’
Naïve Records (Dist. by harmonia mundi): V 5319

Listen to Arsys Bourgogne

Essence of Christmas by Quintessenz Leipzig Flute Ensemble

One of the most poignant experiences with Quintessenz yearly calendar is its annual Christmas concert. This CD, encompassing the most beautiful pieces from those programs, represents the basic “essence” of this longstanding tradition. The disc features works by Bridge, Mozart, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, J.S. Bach, and Jan Brandts Buys.
Recorded at Paul-Gerhard-Kirche, Leipzig, Germany 02/2012 – 61:34
Genuine Classics (Dist. by Naxos of America): GEN 12253

Listen to Quintessenz Leipzig Flute Ensemble

A Steinway Christmas Album, Christmas carols & winter melodies by various composers, Jeffrey Biegel (piano)

Released in 2011, this album features twenty-one sparkling arrangements of time honored carols, well-loved winter melodies, and evocative new pieces. It stands above many of the holiday musical offerings because of its rarity. While there are thousands of Christmas recordings available, no more than a dozen feature solo piano.
Recorded at SUNY Purchase (May 3, 4, 2011) – 62’41
Steinway & Sons Ref. #: 34062 30005

Listen to Jeffrey Biegel playing Sleigh Ride

From Out of the Wood, Live at Christmas by the St. Charles Singers
This is choral music at its best. St. Charles Singers, with musical director Jeff Hunt at the helm, are a highly distinguished and acclaimed choir. They perform here songs and carols, some well-known, others that deserve to be discovered.
Recorded at Baker Memorial Methodist Church in St. Paul, Illinois, in 2011 – 48:20
Purchase from St. Charles Singers’ website only.

Listen to & watch the St. Charles Singers:

Noël, 25 Hymns of Christmas by William Neil (organ)

This is majestic pipe organ Christmas music performed by organist/harpsichordist William Neil, one of the busiest and most sought after keyboard artist. Here again, some well-known titles as well as rarely heard hymns and songs.
Recorded at the National Presbyterian Church, Washington D.C., in 2011 – 63:55
MSR Classics #: MS 1153

Listen to an excerpt of this CD

Weihnachts Lieder, Vols. 1 & 2 by SWR Stuttgart Vocal Ensemble, Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Angelika Kirchschlager (soprano), Sarah Wegener (soprano), Andreas Weller (tenor), Thomanenchor Leipzig, Orpheus Vokalensemble, Knabenchor collegium iuvenum Stuttgart

This is a collection of the most beautiful German carols promoted by the charitable organization Lieder Projekt sung by leading opera singers, choirs, and children.
Recorded at various locations in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2011 – Vol.1: 72:28 – Vol. 2: 68:47
Carus (Dist. by Naxos of America) #: 83009 (vol.1) & 83010 (vol.2)

A Winter’s Light by Vasari Singers, Jeremy Backhouse (musical director)

Based in London, Vasari Singers is among the leading chamber choirs in Britain, performing music from the Renaissance to contemporary. This CD (among others) features a warming blend of the traditionally familiar and the readily accessible, lesser known from all periods and styles of music. Joyous and masterful 16th-century polyphony sits alongside popular Victorian carols and works as recent as Gabriel Jackson’s The Christ-child. The sound produced by this choir is stunningly beautiful.
Recorded at Tonebridge School Chapel, Tonbridge, Kent, UK, in Feb. 2012 – 73:48
Naxos #: 8.573030

Listen to Vasari Singers

Francesco Durante’s Neapolitan Music for Christmas sung by Monica Piccinini, Christina Kühne (sopranos), Ursula Eittinger (alto), Alberto ter Doest (tenor), Thilo Dahlmann (bass), the Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens (musical director)

Neapolitan composer Francesco Durante (1684-1755) was considered during his time as one of the most influential and revered composers of church music. This CD features his Pastorale “Cito Pastores” with its brilliant “Laudate pueri”, the Kyrie and Gloria of his Mass In afflictionis tempore. At the helm of the Cologne Academy, Michael Alexander Willens does a remarkable job at resurrecting this rarely performed music.
Recorded at Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaale, November 14-17, 2011 – 70:27
CPO #: 777 734-2

Listen to music by F. Durante played by the Cologne Academy

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