Thursday, December 10, 2015

Respighi: Lauda per la Nativitá del Signore

Now this is my kind of Christmas album. While all the works were written for the season, they aren't part of the classical Christmas top 40 (with one exception -- sort of). And they're all beautifully performed and recorded. The Rundfunkchor Berlin has a rich, creamy sound with an almost seamless blend of voices.

The program opens with Sven-David Sandstrom's arrangement of Praetorious' "Es is ein ros entsprungen" (that's the exception I was talking about). Sandstrom stretches this well-known carol out, creating long, sinuous taffy-like strands polyphony.

Morten Lauridsen's "O magnum mysterium" benefits from the choir's smooth sound. This delicate, lyrical work almost shimmers in this heartfelt performance.

Francis Poulenc wrote his "Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël" in a madrigalist manner. That is, he uses the music to illustrate the actions of the words as well as the underlying emotions. The Rundfunkchor Berlin performs these motets in a clean, clear fashion -- even if you don't understand the words they sing, the emotions come through loud and clear.

Respighi's "Lauda per la Nativitá del Signore" is (for me), the high point of the album. The choir, combined with the Polyphonia Ensemble Berlin shows Respighi at his best. The rich harmonies, the imaginative orchestrations, and the wonderfully simple (but not simplistic) melodies all come together for a seasonal work that in my opinion just isn't heard enough.

If you -- or someone you know -- is looking for something out of the ordinary in seasonal recordings, I highly recommend this release.

Ottorino Respighi: Lauda per la Nativitá del Signore; Sven-David Sandstrôm/Michael Preaetorius: Es ist ein Ros estprungen; Heinrich Kaminksi: Maria durch ein Dornwald ging; Morten Lauridsen: O magnum mysterium; Günther Raphael: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland; Francis Poulenc: Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël  
Yeree Suh; Kristrine Larissa Funkhauser; Krystian Adam; Rundfunkchor Berlin; Polyphonia Ensemble Berlin; Nicolas Fink; Maris Sirmais, directors 
Carus 83.473

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