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Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, January 2011

Christmas Goes Baroque 1 8.550301
Choral Concert: Finnish Radio Chamber Choir – Early Finnish Vocal Music (Piae Cantiones) ODE918-2
Piae Cantiones: Latin Song in Medieval Finland 8.554180

Apologies for having missed both the December Roundup and the Christmas Supplement with these—I hope that this Roundup will appear in time for you to play Christmas Goes Baroque until Twelfth Night and the Piæ Cantiones contain music for all year round—indeed, much of the music, as might be expected for a Scandinavian collection, is about Spring. There is, however, also a good deal of Christmas music, including one of the earliest examples of Personent hodie.

Christmas Goes Baroque continues the work begun in Beatles Go Baroque, with familiar Christmas Carols undergoing the treatment. I thought it less successful than the Beatles album, largely because many traditional seasonal tunes already have a baroque feel, so don’t sound greatly altered in these arrangements, but it’s great fun.

The lack of texts is the only problem connected with both downloads of Piæ Cantiones: some of the Latin ones are available online, but your Finnish would have to be much better than mine to cope with the songs in that most difficult of languages on the Ondine album. You can, however, obtain some information on Piæ Cantiones from Naxos here. Both albums contain excellent performances, the Naxos with significantly smaller forces, which I prefer as leading to clearer diction and a more ‘authentic’ sound. I place the word in quotes because we have little idea how the music sounded in 16th-century Scandinavia. One track on the Ondine recording is accompanied with percussion. The Naxos recording begins with a hauntingly beautiful organ preamble; some of the pieces are lightly accompanied and there are some charming instrumental interludes. Both sound well, even though the Naxos is available in mp3 only.

Classicsonline also have a third album from Piæ Cantiones on the Musica Sveciæ label (Hortus Musicus/Andres Mustonen, MSCD201) and both classicsonline and passionato have a fourth collection, from 1995, sung by the female voices of Oxford Camerata directed by Jeremy Summerly (Let Voices Resound, Naxos 8.553578). Perhaps I’ll return to them in time for next Christmas.

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