Title - 'All Is Bright'
Artist - Handel and Hayden Society
For those not in the know, the Handel and Haydn Society, familiarly known as H+H, is an American chorus and period instrument orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts.
Founded in 1815, it is the third oldest musical organization in the United States after the Stoughton Musical Society (founded in 1786) and the U.S. Marine Band (founded 1798), and the oldest continually performing arts organization in the United States.
The Handel and Haydn Society maintains a publicly accessible online searchable archive of its performances and artist history. Indeed, and interestingly enough, all performances and artists from 1815 to the present can be accessed.
Here on the quite stunning All Is Bright CD, the Handel & Haydn Society offers a selection that, once again, fuses the familiar with new works destined to inspire the festive imagination.
1. Sweetlinck: Hodie Chritsus natus est (2:46)
2. Anon: There is no rose (3:35)
3. Buxtehude: In dulci jubilo (5:20)
4. Practorius: Lo how a Rose e'er blooming (2:20)
5. Cornelius: The Three Kings (2:51)
6. Walton: What cheer? (1:12)
7. Walton: All this time (1:44)
8. Walton: King Herod and the cock (2:10)
9. Walton: Make we joy now in this fest (4:21)
10. Howells: A Spotless Rose (3:21)
11. Whitacre: Lux aurumque (3:54)
12. Mathias: A babe is born (3:12)
13. Mathias: Sir Christemas (1:22)
14. Gruber: Stille Nacht (Silent Night) (3:14)
15. Higdeon: O magnum mysterium (7:39)
16. Ives: A Christmas Carol (1:55)
17. Pinkham: Sweet Music (4:36)
18. Rorem: While all things were in quiet silence (2:32)
19. Anon: The Coventry Carol (4:07)
20. Thomson: O My Deir Hert (2:27)
21. Anon: Deck The Hall (1:14)
22. Vignieri: Hodie Christus natus est (4:32)
On what can only be described as highly enjoyable, seasonal album, what you receive is an astonishing display of some very powerful, and beautifully performed Christmas choral literature.
The pieces range from 15th century carol arrangements to modern, 20th century works from an variety of composers; many of whom have achieved some degree of notoriety in today's crowded choral music field (Eric Whitacre, Jennifer Higdon, Ned Rorem, and Virgil Thomson, to name a few).
All are rather spectacularly performed by the clear-toned and evenly balanced Handel and Haydn Society Chorus. Notable for their emphasis on historically-informed performance practice and a rich history including the American premier in the 1800s of Handel's Messiah, the choir performs as exceptionally on works of 400 years ago as they do on those written in our century.
For me personally, the anonymous setting of the Coventry Carol allows the choir to demonstrate its versatility. The clarity of the choir's straight tone shines through the close harmonies and suspension-heavy lines.
Indeed, for sheer haunting beauty, it's hard to think of a piece that quite compares. Which, in closing, means that if All Is Bright is featuring at your holiday celebrations this yea, head will turn and your guests will loving inquire.
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