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A String Quartet Christmas
Volume 1: Arturo Delmoni, Alexander Romanul (violins), Katherine Murdock (viola), Nathaniel Rosen (cello)
Volume 2: Arturo Delmoni, Nina Bodnar (violins), Natasha Lipkina (viola), Nathaniel Rosen (cello), Emily Mitchell (harp)
Volume 3: Arturo Delmoni, Danielle Maddon (violins), Ellen DePasquale (viola), Rafael Figueroa (cello), Emily Mitchell (harp), Timothy Smith (organ)
Recorded in New York City: Church of the Holy Trinity (April 1995) [Volume 1], Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York (May 1997) [Volume 2] & Nave of Riverside Church (June 1998) [Volume 3] – 165’
Ref. #: Listen LSTN 50001 (distributed by ArkivMusic 2010) – No booklet or liner notes

Just in time for the holiday season, ArkivMusic has released a set of three CDs entitled A String Quartet Christmas. Produced separately in the last half of the 1990s, they feature Christmas favorites by violinist Arturo Delmoni “and friends”. Delmoni, arguably New York’s finest freelance violinist, has made numerous recordings on the independent label John Marks Records (JMR) which prides itself on high fidelity sound. (JMR recordings are distributed by ArchivMusic.) For these three recording sessions Delmoni assembled other top- flight musicians, including Nathaniel Rosen, the only American cellist to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

The 68 selections on this set range from the familiar Joy to the World, Silent Night and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, to the lesser-known but equally lovely Innsbruck, Ich muss dich lassen, El Noi de la Mare and Christmas Lullaby (John Rutter). It also includes Six Noëls for Harp (Tournier), two Ave Marias (Bach-Gounod and Schubert), and Sheep of the Infant Jesus (Büsser/Delmoni) for Viola, Harp and Organ.

The set is very well done and is a welcome change from the traditional arrangements that we often hear on the radio and in shopping malls during the season. It is perfect for an evening relaxing around the tree or fireplace. The playing throughout is romantic and mellow without being sentimental. The instruments are well-tuned and blend well. The recorded sound is impeccable - clean and direct.

One of my favorites is the passionate, resonating reading of Sleep of the Infant Jesus. Violist Ellen DePasquale brings a tone of richness and sincerity to this work that would be hard to beat. Another is the luxurious, hallowed interpretation of Schubert’s Ave Maria supplemented by the harp of Emily Mitchell. And Veni, Veni, Emmanuel has an endearing lyrical quality that reminds us of the almost lost sacredness of the season.

Delmoni is the one musician included on all three discs. Rosen plays on the first two.

As the majority of the selections are arranged for string quartet, the inclusion of harp and organ on several pieces provides a respite from a potentially monotonous listening experience (68 selections is a lot!). And for those who may desire a sampling, these CDs can still be purchased separately from ArchivMusic.com. The first has the more traditional offerings and the last, the least well-known. A sure-to-be welcomed gift for the music lover on your list!

Earl Arthur Love




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