King's Singers Christmas
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In 35 years the British male vocal sextet known as the King's Singers has experienced many turnovers of personnel, including the retirement of virtually all of its original members--but three important things haven't changed one little bit: quality of the performances, camraderie among the singers, and compatibility of the voices. And on evidence of this new release on the Signum label, this premier ensemble has found a recording team that shows the group's talent to an even higher engineering standard than we've ever heard before in previous issues from EMI and RCA.
Throughout these 70-plus minutes and 25 tracks, we hear nothing but absolutely first-class musicianship, top-notch arrangements, and always thoughtfully chosen, entertaining repertoire that invariably and ideally suits the group's sound and style. Among the selections are a few standard carols and arrangements--Vaughan Williams' This is the truth, Ravenscroft's Remember, O thou man, Bach's harmonizations of In dulci jubilo and O little one sweet, and the familiar, anonymous settings of There is no rose, and The Coventry Carol--but there also are many more newer and captivatingly original pieces, several exceptional ones created by King's Singers member Philip Lawson (Lullay my liking; Veni, veni Emmanuel; Noël nouvelet). Notable too are a nifty (and most uncharacteristic) Bogoroditsye Devo by Arvo Pärt, an exquisitely lovely and dramatic rendition of Tchaikovsky's The Crown of Roses, "transformed by the great jazz arranger Jeremy Lubbock", and the concluding re-working (with new, Christmas words by Lawson and a string quartet accompaniment) of the King's Singers signature You are the New Day.
For sheer vocal beauty, you can't beat the performances of Rutter's There is a flower and Stille Nacht, Lawson's Away in a manger, Praetorius' Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen, or Bach's O little one sweet. But then, the whole thing is just gorgeous, and if you love Christmas music recordings, well, what are you waiting for? This is one of the best ever. [11/15/2003]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: SIGCD502
Label: Signum Classics
Composer: John McCabe, Michael Praetorius
Orchestra/Ensemble: King's Singers