Silver bells, winter wonderlands, joy to the world. Indeed, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And thanks to the spirit of Naxos, it’s also sounding a lot like the holiday season. America’s No. 1 independent classical music distributor is celebrating 28 years in the music business, and Naxos has evolved from its beginnings as a budget label to a leading classical music force. All the right notes are hit with this year’s sleigh-full of the best music to celebrate and cherish thr Yuletide season.
Artists: Junger Kammerchor Rhein-Neckar • Mathias Rickert
Composers of all periods have been inspired to write stunning works by the chants and liturgies for the four Sundays of Advent, ranging from Tomás Luis de Victoria and William Byrd, Johannes Brahms and Erhard Mauersberger, to composers of the present. Jan Wilke and Dominik Dieterle are the youngest members of an illustrious group that includes Bob Chilcott, Morten Lauridsen, and Arvo Pärt. A number of the Latin O antiphons are complemented by new settings of well-known Advent songs. We promise listeners a peaceful Advent.
Artists: Philharmoniker Hamburg • Allessandri de Marchi • Julien Prégardien • Melissa Petit • Manuel Günther • Wilhelm Schwinghammer • Lloyd Riggins, Anna Laudere • Carsten Jung, Karen Azatyan • Hamburg Ballett
“Rejoice, exult”–John Neumeier turns Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” into an experience that confronts us all with themost basic questions of trust, hope, faith, doubt and self-sacrifice. Head of Hamburg Ballett, American-born John Neumeier´s celebrated ballet of Bach´s complete “Christmas Oratorio” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time.Neumeier has made a name for himself with dramatic, story-driven ballets. Throughout the years, he has found great inspiration from emotion-packed works of literature, poetry and music.
Jirásek: “Czech and Moravian Christmas Carols”
Artists: JITRO Children’s Choir • Jirni Skopal
Czech composer Jan Jirásek was awarded the prestigious Czech Lion Award for his film music in “Wild Flowers” and “An Ambiguous Report about the End of the World.” His work has been represented at numerous venues and festivals throughout the world since 1989, and he has taught at several prestigious universities in Europe and the US. Throughout the last four decadess, the JITRO children’s choir have toured extensively, performing over 2,800 concerts worldwide and recorded more than 30 albums.
“He Is Born”
Artists:: BYU Vocal Point
Brigham Young University’s nine-man a cappella sensation has performed in front of millions on NBC’s “The Sing-Off”, on YouTube, and in concerts around the United States. Featuring songs such as “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and “Sleigh Ride”, BYU Vocal Point’s debut Christmas album is destined to become a family favorite among Christmas albums for years to come.
“Christmas Carols: From Village Green to Church Choir”
Artist:: Andrew Gant
With “Christmas Carols,” Gant tells the story of some 20 carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unraveling a captivating–and often surprising tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys, choirboys, monks and drunks, delving into the history of such favorites as “Good King Wenceslas”, “Away in a Manger” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, discovering along the way how ‘Hark, the Herald angels sing’ came to replace ‘Hark, how all the welkin ring’ and how Ralph Vaughan Williams bolted the tune of an English folk song about a dead ox to a poem by a 19th century American pilgrim to make “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” This recording, a fittingly joyous account of one of our best-loved musical traditions, brims with anecdote, expert knowledge and Christmas spirit.
“A Very English Christmas”
Artists: Tenebrae • James Sherlock • Nigel Short
The BBC Music Magazine Award award-winning choir Tenebrae, under the direction of Nigel Short, one of the world’s finest vocal ensembles renowned for its passion and precision return to disc on Signum with a sumptuous album of carols, hymns and other celebratory works for Christmas. Among the composers to feature on this disc are John Gardner, Peter Warlock, Philip Ledger and Arnold Bax. A singer of great acclaim, Nigel Short was a member of the world-renowned vocal ensemble The King’s Singers from 1994–2000. Upon leaving the group, he formed Tenebrae, a virtuosic choir that embraced his dedication to passion and precision.
“An English Christmas”
Artists: Westminster Bell Choir • Kathleen Ebling Shaw
This new CD release from Westminster Choir College Recordings is the perfect way to “ring in the holidays” with the joyous sounds of Christmas, the album’s arrangements of holiday favorites being performed on the world’s largest range of handbells. The Westminster Concert Bell Choir is considered to be America’s leading handbell ensemble. Hailed for its virtuosity, the Westminster Concert Bell Choir performs on the largest range of handbells in the world. Recent performances include joining Josh Groban to perform “The Bells of New York” for the national broadcast of the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, as well as having performed at Carnegie Hall twice during the Christmas season. Kathleen Ebling Shaw is in demand as a conductor and handbell clinician worldwide. She has conducted ensembles and led symposia throughout the US, Japan, England, Korea and Australia.
“Die Weihnachtsgeschichte” (“The Christmas Story”)
Artists: Athesinus Consort Berlin • Thomas Volle
In its touching tenderness, the “Weihnachtsgeschichte” op. 10 by Hugo Distler is one of the most beautiful temptations for any a cappella ensemble at Advent or Christmas time. With its scoring for four-part choir, from which all the soloists can easily be drawn, it is proof that the Christmas message can be conveyed with the same simple, sublime brilliance as with the old masters. The seven variations on “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” which run through the work are much more than merely a framework for the story–they are also great music within themselves.
“December Celebration: New Carols by 7 American Composers”
Artists: Lisa Delan • Lester Lynch • Volti Chorus • New Century Chamber Orchestra • Steven Bailey • Dawn Harms
December holds in its hands many worlds of celebration as the month unfolds with Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and the eve of the New Year. Over the centuries a great deal of music has marked this time of year, but very little has been added to the canon in recent decades. Gordon Getty inspired us with his composition of delightful new Christmas carols to invite a group of American composers to celebrate the season in music. The resulting CD, a rich and tuneful recording of new holiday classics for all to share with their friends and families, features the work of Mark Adams, Jake Heggie, Joan Morris and William Bolcom, David Garner, Luna Pearl Woolf, John Corigliano and Gordon Getty, who, in addition to his Four Christmas Carols arranged Franz Gruber’s Silent Night for mixed chorus and chamber orchestra, the culminating album track.
“Magnificat & Christmas Cantata”
Artists: John Butt • Dunedin Consort •Julia Doyle • Joanne Lunn • Clare Wilkinson • Nicholas Mulroy • Matthew Brook
This is the premiere recording of J.S. Bach’s “Magnificat” heard for the first time within its original liturgical context, alongside the beautiful “Christmas Cantata.” Dunedin Consort recreates Bach’s first “Christmas at Leipzig”; the recording opens with a Gabrieli motet and includes organ preludes and a seasonal congregational chorale. This recording marks the return of Dunedin Consort’s star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson plus newcomer Julia Doyle. Director John Butt’s liturgical reconstruction of Bach’s “John Passion” was named “Recording of the Month” by three publications.
“Christmas in Medieval England”
Artists: Blue Heron Renaissance Choir • Scott Metcalfe
“Christmas in Medieval England” allows listeners to share the beauty, excitement, intensity and variety found in a Blue Heron concert performance. It includes plainchant, carols, and other music for Advent and Christmas from 15th-century England. It is comprised entirely of tracks recorded live at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational in December 2013.
Artist: Grassau Brass Ensemble
With Rundumadum (Bavarian for “round and round”), the 10-member Grassau Brass Band present their all-time Christmas favorites. It is a joyful winter journey, full of atmosphere that captures the ensemble’s unique sound. Typical “Grassauer”, authentic Bavarian folk music forms the basic concept for Rundumadum. The ensemble makes use of instruments from the alphorn to baroque trumpets, playing everything from chorales to “The Petersburg Sleigh Ride”, showcasing their impressive spectrum of musical colors.
“Make the Season Bright”
Artists: US Air Force Concert Band • Singing Sergeants • Lowell E. Graham
This gem is another first-rate collection in the delightful series of holiday-themed recordings from the United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants and their Commander/Conductor Lowell E. Graham. A wide range material, from classical to traditional carols to Broadway, are given the guaranteed, stirring treatment listeners have long come to trust and admire from this perennial and patriotic musical aggregation.
“Light of Gold”
Artists: Cappella SF • Ragnar Bohlin
Bohlin founded Cappella SF, a professional chamber choir, in 2014. Since then, this select Bay Area ensemble has presented four acclaimed concerts and recorded music for two CDs–including this, their first commercial disc. Spanning more than a millennium, this holiday program has something for everyone: traditional seasonal standards, original compositions and arrangements from English and American composers, as well as leading choral masters from Bohlin’s native Sweden, including a piece composed for Cappella SF by Fredrik Sixten that’s heard here in its world premiere recording.