It's that time of year again, and this one is top of an ever-growing pile of Christmas discs I aim to cover prior to the BIG DAY.Lise Davidsen is one of teh World's top singers today, and any release is a call for celebration.
Here’s some background in video format, with Lise Davidsen in an appropriately white environment (and with coat to match) explaining her attachment to the music of Yuletide:
This is a warm hug of a disc. Those who heard Davidsen’s recent Elisabetta at Covent Garden will surely remember an almost Wagnerian force; this isteh flip side. We start with O Holy Night (O Helga Matt), in an arrangement by Douglas Gamley (a highly experienced arranger) and Chris Hazell:
The excellent orchestra is the Norwegian Radio Orchestra under Christian Eggert.
A set of Christmas songs (Weihnachtslieder) by the composer of one of the most loved Christmas operas - Hänsel und Gretel - is not to be sniffed at. And here is one of those Christmas songs, simply called “Weihnachten” (Christmas). It has a lovey sense of Romantic glow about it. The arrangement is by the great conductor Sir Charles Mackerras:
It's nice to have an official video for Silent Night (sung in English). The arrangement is by David Cullen and the Norwegian National Opera Children's Choir partakes. Davidsen's phrasing is beautiful, her voice softened:
A Scandinavian Christmas song is inevitable from Davidsen, and indeed we have Jul, jul, strålande jul (Yule, Yule, glorious Yule) by Gustaf Nordqvist Edvard Evers, with its passage for solo voice and unaccompanied choir:
Perhaps it is Davidsen's harmonic sensitivity that illuminates most, something one can hear in spades in the traditional Delig er Jordan (Wonderful is the earth):
The held-breath delicacy of Mitt hjerte alltid vanker (My heart always wonders) contains all the warm glow of Christmas one could ever want.
It is fascinating to have apiece here by Sibelius (his pictures surely make him out to be too serious for fireside fun at Christmas). His Julvisa (Christmas Carol), though, is just beautiful. And now you know that Sibelius’ Op. 1 is Five Christmas Carols!:
I doubt good old JSB has been heard in as fluffy a garb as this for a while. Jesus is beleibteing his Freude with a spring in his step in Chris Hazell's take. A nice and tight little vocal trill from Davidsen, too:
It is so good to see ax Reger here. Too often one things of harsh German rigour, but his “Mariä Wiegenlied” (Maria's Cradle Song) is pure loveliness. And how Davidsen floats those higher notes!. Astonichingly, it is song number 52 from his Schlichte Weisen, Op. 76 :
There is, arguably, too much oft he warm cushion about the orchestra; contribution to Davidsen’s Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, but no-one could deny Davidsen’s beautiful enunciation of the text or moulding of phrases. More impressive on a musical level is “Schlafendes Jesuskiind”, from Hugo Wolf’s Mörike-Lieder:
Three evergreen favourites close the disc: The First Nowell (with some delightful pizzicato help at one point. And there's just a hint that Daviden is itching to break out into full operatic mode at a single "B" enunciation - she certainly gets the chance to do so, anyway, in John Francis Wade’s O Come, All Ye Faithful in full Gamley/Hazell regalia:
The disc ends with that wondrous O Holy Night (whose video appears towards teh start of this post). Production standards are impeccable, from presentation (lots of photos of Lise) through to the superb sound (recorded in Jar Kirk, Oslo, Norway).
You can buy the disc via Amazon at this link.