As we approach the Christmas and New Year holiday season, here is another music selection to add to your growing collection. My CD recommendation this week is A Festival of Carols in Brass featuring the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble. Since I have been remiss in not posting recommendations for a few weeks, a second option to download is, The Joy of Christmas, featuring Leonard Bernstein.
Here is a positive review for Carols in Brass. “This collection is over thirty years old and it sets the standard for Christmas brass music. It would be my guess that many people who already own this disc first purchased it as an LP. Others will purchase the disc because their parents and grandparents owned the disc and it has become a holiday musical tradition. Over the years it has been one of Columbia’s best selling albums and listeners will easily understand why. Listeners will almost feel as if the Salvation Army Band is right outside serenading Christmas shoppers. Listeners will quickly discover that many of the tracks of this collection are familiar from radio play. Probably the most creative and perhaps best known arrangements are the group’s version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” You cannot go wrong purchasing this disc.” I happen to thoroughly enjoy brass music so this CD receives 5 stars for the vast majority of songs.
As for the Joy of Christmas, here is a supportive review from an Amazon reader. “Remember the “Andre” champagne commercial from the 70s? The one featuring a recording of “Carol of the Bells” and quick shots of people ringing in the new year? Well that recording of Carol of the Bells is the definitive version (in my book anyway). And it is featured on the 1997 Sony reissue of the “The Joy of Christmas” featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the New York Philharmonic conducted by the great Leonard Bernstein. This is one of THE classic holiday LPs, beautifully remastered for CD. In addition to “Carol of the Bells” one of the best choral versions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (5+ minutes) is included here along with fourteen other traditional carols (no pop standards here).
These sixteen numbers from the original LP clock in at almost 50 minutes – a very generous recording time for an LP from 1963. Still Sony Classics decided to extend the reissue a bit and has added the following bonus tracks, all featuring Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic.
~ Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Suite from the Nutcracker (recorded 1960): what you get is seven of the eight movements included in the suite – not sure why but the climax of the suite – the “Waltz of the Flowers” – is omitted.
~ A 1970 recording of the Children’s Prayer from Humperdick’s ballet “Hansel and Gretel”, a quiet movement of gentle lyricism.
~ To close the program a 1956 recording for the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah”. Again Bernstein conducts the NY Philharmonic, but instead of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir the singing is provided by the Westminster Choir. It’s a splendid performance.”