Season’s greetings! Christmas is a time for giving and for sharing special moments with family and friends. Be they children or parents, best friends or new acquaintances, inquisitive newcomers or well-versed connoisseurs – Naxos has a perfect gift for each and every one of them!
Read on for details of some of our recommended recordings, or click here to go to the complete Naxos Christmas Catalogue.
The Elora Festival Singers, conducted by internationally acclaimed director Noel Edison, is one of the most exciting of contemporary choirs. Their disc of Eric Whitacre’s choral music (8.559677) was nominated for a GRAMMY® in 2010. Now they turn to the art of the Christmas carol, a genre covering a variety of styles, both popular and refined, each piece expressing religious sentiments and beliefs. The music ranges from much-loved settings to new works, from polyphony to more straightforward melodies, in a recital stretching from the Middle Ages to the music of today.
‘…the Elora Festival Singers prove worthy of their world-class reputation. Naxos has always repaid their artistry with sound of the highest order, and so it proves here. Noel Edison and his singers should be commended for giving us such a worthwhile Christmas gift.’
– Classical Net
Listen to an excerpt from Stuart Thompson's The Holly and the Ivy
Although he remains best remembered for his solo songs, for the song cycle The Curlew, and for his evergreen suite Capriol, Peter Warlock’s choral works sit firmly in the great English lineage. The music ranges from Hymns to the Virgin to carols, many spiced with his own ‘melody of chords’ and his typically tangy harmonies. Some of Warlock’s most beautiful and sensitive settings are to be heard, not least Corpus Christi and Bethlehem Down, whilst there is also a very rare setting in Cornish (track 21), recorded for the first time in that language.
“It’s good to have so many of Warlock’s choral settings on one disc, sensitively performed by this technically confident group of singers…a very valuable collection.”
– BBC Music Magazine
This collection of early music for the Advent season provides a glimpse into the days of anticipation and hope leading up to Christmas during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Pierre de La Rue spent his professional life serving some of the most influential rulers of that time, and the glorious polyphony of his Missa Conceptio tua celebrates the Immaculate Conception in a manner appropriate to the extravagant liturgy of the Habsburg-Burgundian court. The seven O Antiphons focus on the theme of Jesus’s imminent arrival, while the concluding English carols centre on the Virgin Mary’s birth of the Christ child.
“This is a CD whose music first anticipates and then, in the concluding carols, celebrates the birth of the Christ child – a very apt seasonal presentation with essentially a single focus on love and redemption.”
Listen to an extract from There Is No Rose of Swych Vertu (anon.)
The Vasari Singers’ annual carol concerts always provide a warming blend of traditional favourites and less well-known music from all periods and styles. Here, joyous and masterful 16th-century polyphony sits alongside eternally popular Victorian carols, and exquisitely crafted settings by Howells and Walford Davies join works as recent as Gabriel Jackson’s The Christ-child. Bob Chilcott magically superimposes traditional carols with entrancing new material, and no Vasari Christmas would be complete without some close harmony Swingle singing. The Vasari Singers have also recorded Gabriel Jackson’s Requiem (8.573049).
“This is a handsome Christmas anthology that has something for everyone. The Vasaris, in short, don’t just wish you a Merry Christmas. They do everything they can to make one happen.”
– American Record Guide
The Christmas net is cast wide in this captivating collection of seasonal music. John Fox has crafted a delightful Carol Fantasia. Bryan Kelly’s Scrooge is an action-packed Dickens compression, brought to visceral life by esteemed actor Simon Callow, who also narrates Philip Lane’s Another Night Before Christmas, an update by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy of the classic poem. Lane’s Old Christmas Music is expressively rich, and spans the centuries. Smaller pieces from Liszt, orchestrated by Gordon Jacob, Rebikov and more recent works, complete a delightful selection.
“In sum, a good stocking-filler or cockle-warmer, and a lot more appealing than Christmas telly.”
– MusicWeb International
Admired for the sheer beauty of his meditative and mystical music, John Tavener writes of his Ex Maria Virgine, which was dedicated to HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall in joyful celebration of their marriage: “I have set both familiar and less well known texts, and linked them with an expanding and contracting phrase ‘Ex Maria Virgine’. This refers to Mary the Mother of God—‘The Eternal Feminine’—and should be sung with great radiance and femininity.” The other, mainly unaccompanied, works reveal Tavener’s response to various poetic texts that also praise the Virgin Mary.
“Clare College Choir is outstanding throughout with a remarkable security of attack and precise intonation in chord sequences that are sometimes repetitive but never obvious. The acoustic in Norwich Cathedral is a real asset and so is this vivid recording. Altogether an exhilarating release.” – Gramophone
Handel’s most popular and joyous oratorio, a work of unfailing melodic invention and dramatic expressiveness, has become almost a British national institution, regularly performed by all manner of choirs and orchestras. This new recording provides the only modern re-construction of Handel’s unique London performances in 1751, when he used boy treble voices not only for the choruses but for the arias as well. It is both a celebration of the British chapel choir tradition and a window onto a particular time and place in the history of Handel’s own performances of his masterpiece.
“Throughout the performance, which is superbly recorded, the feeling is one of freshness, and this recording has the strongest recommendation, quite irrespective of price.” – Penguin Guide