Best records for Christmas listening.
The celebration of Christ’s birth continues to produce joyous and exciting music. For the third year, we have selected some recordings from recently released albums of Christmas music that are exceptional in writing and performance.
• Hely-Hutchinson: Carol Symphony, Pro Arte Orchestra, Choir of Guildford Cathedral, Barry Rose, conductor; EMI HMV Greensleeve ESD-7021. The only recording ever made of Christian Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony has long been unavailable, making this new British reissue most welcome. Written in the late 1920s, the composer imaginatively develops familiar Christmas melodies into a four-movement symphony. Easily recognized are “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and the “Coventry Carol.” Rose also conducts the “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
• We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Boston Pops Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Williams, conductor; Philips 6302–125 (digital). “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Ives, is a hauntingly beautiful lullaby that is rarely heard. “Carol of the Drum,” popularly known as “The Little Drummer Boy,” is given its original title on this album and attributed to its real composer, Katherine K. Davis. “The Twelve Days of Christmas”—with a bell instead of a partridge in that familiar pear tree and other musical instruments in lieu of the traditional gifts—becomes a mini-introduction to the orchestra. This is a very merry Christmas collection indeed!
Still available are Boston Pops Christmas albums conducted by the late Arthur Fiedler, including: A Christmas Festival (Polydor 24–5004); Pops Goes Christmas (RCA LSC-3324), with the Arthur Fiedler Chorus; and Pops Christmas Party ...1
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