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BACH-coverfron-sRGB.jpg CD Spotlight - A Wealth of Pleasure -'The singing throughout is of a high quality"

November 4, 2016

Roderic Dunnett

The Danish National Radio Choir, under Stefan Parkman, was one of the treasures of the Chandos label's choral output some time ago. The present ensemble first saw light of day in 2007 as the National Vocal Ensemble, and has already been picked up by Naxos. Their singing has been described as transparent, bright and pure, and highly applauded for its remarkable technical precision.
While there are numerous discs of Christmas carols to be explored, the difference here with Let The Angels Sing is the freshness of the new arrangements, made by the group's conductor, Michael Bojesen. In particular, he has imported a recorder, here the utterly delightful, expressive virtuoso performer Michala Petri.
The overall result is a medieval feeling throughout, most especially when the recorder is given an exposed solo passage, as at the opening, in Infant Holy, and midway through Angelus ad Virginem.
The real invention begins with Up Good Christen Folk, where a vocal bells effect is highly attractive and the recorder takes off, pirouetting in a beautifully and aptly conceived descant.
The Czech baroque hymn Rocking, like several of these items (In Dulci Jubilo, Unto Us is Born), acquires an appetising and unusual short prelude. The men come into their own to good effect, with a thrumming bass drone and eloquent tenor singing of the melody, in A Virgin Most Pure; and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear also benefits from a men-only arrangement. These lower voices are profoundly atmospheric, and their legato treatment here is highly beneficial — not so far from Welsh male voice choirs in manner. The Coventry Carol reintroduces the recorder, in a lovely and by no means obviously shaped first and last verse descant. God Rest You has a canonic treatment midway. One of the perkiest is an earlier Czech offering (seventeenth century), the Zither Carol ('Girls and boys, leave your toys, make no noise ...'), which positively dances through the story of the shepherds and the wise men.
Recorder in lower register is a feature of Infant Holy, to which Bojesen brings slightly unusual, appealing harmonies. The boldest introductory and midway patter for Petri comes as the introduction to There stood in heav'n a linden tree ..., whose roots lie in an early German medieval carol (fourteenth century).
Girls and men alternate in the traditional way for Good King Wenceslas. Perhaps the most attractive solo is actually vocal — a delightful version of Blessed Be That Maid Mary, in which G R Woodward's exquisite Marian text is an ideal match for the fifteenth century English melody; and the women's voices as a whole have a charming passage also.
O Come, o come, Emmanuel makes a suitable conclusion.
The singing throughout is of a high quality, even if relatively traditional and without a particularly individual sound. For those to whom the carol is not merely a Christmas speciality, but something to be enjoyed at any time of the year, Bojesen's sensible pacings and of course Petri's almost angelic playing will surely bring a wealth of pleasure.
Copyright © 5 November 2016 Roderic Dunnett,
Coventry UK

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