Various Artists

Essential Winter's Solstice

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Windham Hill's successful A Winter's Solstice series started during the label's first year in 1985, and has continued at roughly a new volume every two or three years, each installment containing a bright wintry blend of classical music, reimagined hymns, chiming carols, and atmospheric compositions that have since garnered the name new age. This two-disc set picks some of the best and brightest moments from the series' first eight volumes, including David Qualey's guitar arrangement of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," Liz Story's piano rendition of "Greensleeves," harpist Lisa Lynne's "Northern Lights," and guitarist W.G. Snuffy Walden's sad, haunting "Moon Lake" on disc one. Disc two offers up the Modern Mandolin Quartet's take on "Trepak," drawn from Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite," William Coulter's lovely "Rain into Snow," and Darol Anger's reshaping of the traditional "I Saw Three Ships." The music on these two discs is beautiful, soothing, even redemptive, and it all seems as natural as a sky full of stars.

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