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Film Music: The Neglected Art, December 2010

Holiday CD’s are more than plentiful in the marketplace so why would one choose this release? The Seattle Symphony is a first rate orchestra with a first class conductor in Gerard Schwarz, Naxos is always a good value in the market place, and some of the arrangements are unique and well worth having in your collection. Yes you’ll hear five selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, including Overture Miniature, March, selections from Handel’s Water Music which includes the Allegro, Bouree, Air, and Hornpipe. These are all popular selections for a holiday release along with Pachelbel “Canon in D,” “Silent Night,” “Greensleeves,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “We Three Kings of Orient Are/We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”  One of the advantages of this CD lies in the arrangement Schwarz did of “Silent Night” featuring four French horns and Tuba, making this a truly tranquil unique orchestration. The digital recording brings out the individual horns can and the Tuba part enhances the material. The Ben Hausmann arrangement of “Coventry Carol” is so peaceful I found myself closing my eyes and losing my concentration on the first listen, the oboe and solo violin building to an orchestral crescendo before fading into nothing with the tuba quietly ending the piece. “Gesu Bambino,” an Italian version of O Come All Ye Faithful, also is an arrangement from the Principal Oboe Ben Hausmann and does have an Italian flavor without being loud in anyway. Both arrangements by Ben can be put into the plus category. “We Three Kings of Orient Are/We Wish You A Merry Christmas” ends the CD with another good arrangement from Schwarz featuring French Horns and a Bassoon, a nice way to end this CD.

I found this recording an excellent one to have on in the background while preparing for this festive time of the year. Nicely arranged it is a welcome addition to your collection. Recommended. Please note the film clip of Silent Night in the upper left hand corner.

Stephen Eddins, December 2010

Holiday Classics is a compilation made up of tracks from previous Naxos releases by the Seattle Symphony and its director Gerard Schwarz. Five tracks are devoted to selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, a perennial holiday favorite. Three are taken from Handel’s Water Music Suite, which, while not related to the December holiday season (it would be an unfortunate climate for musicians to be floating on a barge down the Thames), is festive and celebratory. Pachelbel’s Canon is also included, in a desultory performance that’s out of character with the rest of the music on the album, and the remaining tracks consist of orchestral arrangements of traditional Christmas carols. Except for the plodding and lackluster Canon, the pieces are well played and should satisfy listeners looking for orchestral music intended to drum up holiday cheer. Naxos’ sound is clean and present.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group