Classical Lost and Found
, October 2008
When it comes to Christmas music this year it’ll be hard to beat this new release from Naxos featuring some of the world’s best-loved holiday classics by Leroy Anderson (1908–1975). Eleven of the selections are already on Naxos’ five albums devoted to his complete orchestral works (indicated by the number of the album they’re on in parenthesis). But the remaining six are Anderson arrangements unique to this disc (indicated by a “U” in parenthesis). In these troubled times, holiday cheer will be hard to come by this year, but playing this CD should certainly help, and the kids will love it!
With a little imagination it’s tempting to make up a Christmas story about the selections as they appear here. So for the benefit of those readers who are still young-at-heart, here goes!
With a fresh blanket of snow on the ground and beaming sunlight, what better way to start Christmas day than with an early morning Sleigh Ride (3)! After lunch it’s into the Horse and Buggy (2), and off to Grandmother’s house we go. On the way we hear a Song of the Bells (2) echoing through the hills, and pass a local band playing a Suite of Carols for Brass (3).
Arriving at Granny’s, and before we can even knock, the front door opens magically to reveal an enormous black grimalkin standing on its hind legs. It beckons us in with its front paws, and begins to dance around the living room. As the Waltzing Cat (2) passes Granny’s upright radio, we begin to hear the music for A Christmas Festival (4, see above). Then slowly but surely the feline phantom shapeshifts into Granny with cane in hand and a knowing smile on her face typical of those who’ve made it to The Golden Years (1). Now as you’ve probably already guessed, Granny’s a witch! But we love her anyway.
She bids us welcome, asking that we make ourselves comfortable and begin opening our presents. While unwrapping them, we hear on the radio a Suite of Carols for Woodwinds (5), followed by some exceptional orchestral arrangements of Angels in Our Fields (U), O Sanctissima (U), O Come, O Come Emmanuel (U), O Come Little Children (U), the Coventry Carol (U), and the Burgundian carol Patapan (U). A sumptuous dinner follows served up by Granny’s devoted housekeeper Liù, who’s a China Doll (1), if there ever was one.
Having finished this magnificent repast, we sit around the fireplace reminiscing. But the mechanical clock on the wall soon reminds us it’s late, as the toy trumpeter inside appears tooting Bugler’s Holiday (1). So it’s time to journey home, and en route we pass some itinerant fiddlers performing a Suite of Carols for Strings (2). What a perfect ending to a memorable day!
All kidding aside, a special thank you should go to Leroy’s son Kurt Anderson, conductor Leonard Slatkin, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and executive producers Jim Selby and Klaus Heymann for giving us one of the best holiday albums to appear in years.
From the sound perspective it should be noted that this release is cut at a significantly higher level than the other Naxos Anderson discs. Consequently you may experience some high end brightness, which may require reducing the playback level. On the other hand, any children listening may be screaming with such delight that you just might have to turn it up! Either way, the soundstage and detail remain just as impressive as on the others CDs.