Various Artists

The Very Best of Christmas [Naxos]

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Naxos' 2006 double-disc compilation, The Very Best of Christmas, presents an agreeable and balanced assortment of holiday favorites, with vocal and choral numbers assigned to the first disc and instrumental and orchestral pieces on the second. The roster of choral performers includes the Worcester Cathedral Choir, the Scholars Baroque Ensemble, the Tewkesbury Abbey Choir, the Elora Festival Singers, and the Choral Arts Society of Washington, among others; the list of orchestral performances by the Leipzig Radio Chamber Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Capella Istropolitana, and the Slovak Philaharmonic Orchestra, to name a few, is representative of some of Naxos' leading ensembles from 1987 to 2004. The carols, hymns, and other choral works have a decidedly reverent tone, not only because they are the most often performed in church settings, but also because the ensembles are frequently accompanied by organ. In contrast, the instrumental selections on the second half of the program have a secular feeling, since they are largely excerpts from ballets, concertos, and other concert music associated with the Christmas season. Even though the recordings cover a wide time period and were made in numerous venues, the tracks have been mixed for consistency of tone and evenness of dynamic levels, so if the album is played in the background at holiday gatherings, volume adjustments are unnecessary.

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