A Brandenburg Christmas (ABC 476 4687) is the The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir’s 2010 live recording of their annual festive concert Noel! Noel!, which enters its 14th season in 2012.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Paul Dyer, the orchestra is known for its inimitable presentation of both popular and rare Baroque music performed on period instruments. This core is supplemented by a mix of repertoire which suits the resources and style of the ensemble.
A Brandenburg Christmas is the second of its Christmas recordings (the last one was n 1999) and the latest in its collection of 16 releases. The mood is set with the opening tracks by Palestrina (Hodie Christus Natus Est) and Hildegard von Bingen’s hypnotic plainchant for female voices (O Ecclesia). Moving through Purcell’s Rejoice in the Lord Alway and Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, it lands firmly in the 20th century with Herbert Howells’ Here is the Little Door and Billy Joel’s Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel).
Interspersed are Latin inspired songs by Merula and Arañes and traditional ones like The Coventry Carol and The Little Drummer Boy, creatively arranged by Tristan Coelho, and a new work Alma Redemptoris Mater by Hugh Ronzani. Both composers are Sydney graduates who have furthered their studies in composition at the Royal College of Music in London.
In a concession to the power of perennial favourites, the two final items on the CD are Gruber’s Tyrolean classic Stille Nacht (Silent Night), and the traditional O Come, All ye Faithful, arranged by Sir David Willcocks.
The soloists, who include sopranos Belinda Montgomery and Louise Prickett deserve special mention for their singularly beautiful performances. The addition of the classical saxophone, played by Christina Leonard and sounding simultaneously contemporary but classical, is a clever touch.
A Brandenburg Christmas is not just about music. The Brandenburgs have created an experience, inspiring traditions that go beyond listening with their inclusion of special Christmas recipes in the printed insert. Lyndey Milan, Maggie Beer, Damien Pignolet and Eileen Dyer (Paul’s Mum) have contributed recipes. It is not the first time music, food and love have been aligned.
The music is affirming, soothing and glorifying and proves that Christmas can be acknowledged in both sacred and secular styles.
Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©
Available from http://www.brandenburg.com.au/2010/recordings/a-brandenburg-christmas or from ABC shops.