Karel Paukert

Noëls

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Noëls are often thought to be a French specialty, especially because of the famous pieces by Louis-Claude Daquin, Jean-François Dandrieu, and others. This 2005 album from Azica and the Cleveland Museum of Art shows that, far from being uniquely Gallic, Noëls -- short instrumental settings of Christmas carols and seasonal chants, usually for organ -- were also composed by Italian, German, Bohemian, and American masters, all in the same holiday spirit, but with considerable diversity of style and expression. By turns festive and gently reflective, these charming, ingenuous pieces also reflect the tastes of the late Baroque and Classical periods, as well as Romantic and Modern approaches. Yet because the Nativity is the central theme in each, the overall mood is reverent, so even the strange but quiet meditation on Adeste, Fideles by Charles Ives does not disrupt the program's deeply sacred feeling. Karel Paukert's refined playing and wonderful registration choices make these pieces particularly enjoyable, and his broadly inclusive program of works from J.S. Bach's great Pastorale in F major, BWV 590, to Samuel Barber's sweet Chorale Prelude on "Silent Night" is balanced to the greatest extent possible. So whether you choose it for the holidays or just to hear exquisite organ music any time, be sure to snap up this splendid disc before the Yuletide rush.

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