Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fresh Christmas music from ancient sources

From February 5, 2015:


The Christmas music of today brings together so many strands of tradition, from French noels to Victorian anthems to Yogi Yorgensson, but it’s always nice to bring in new strands to tie along with our boughs of holly. This intriguing mix of music from the great singer Caitriona O’Leary and producer Joe Henry includes songs from the 17th century poems of Luke Waddinge, along with music written in County Wexford by Fr. William Devereux in spite of persecution following Oliver Cromwell’s conquest. O’Leary is herself a real archivist, and her research in matching Waddinge’s poems to likely ancient melodies results in new Christmas carols that are likely to be sung well into the future. The music is handed off to a chamber ensemble including bouzouki, bodhran (a frame drum), bones, flute and various strings, and an all-star vocal ensemble including Rosanne Cash, Rhiannon Giddens and Sir Tom Jones. The historical background in the religious wars of the 17th century provide a grim counterpoint to the songs about the cradle and the shepherds, though the theme of redemption comes through loud and clear. These fresh songs will replace some well-worn standards in my own Christmas listening in coming holiday seasons.

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