The Minnesota chamber choir Exultate is not a group with an international reputation, but the level of skill and interpretive sensitivity the musicians bring to this album of mostly familiar Christmas anthems put it in a league with Christmas collections by much more famous ensembles. The intonation and tonal purity of the choir are exemplary, and the ensemble is well balanced with a full, warm sound. Conductor Thomas D. Rossin leads the group with exceptional fluidity and expressive breadth. The dynamic range of the ensemble is especially impressive; the choir has a sound much larger than would be expected for a group of its size, and in its big moments, it has real power. This album stands out from many of its competitors because it is accompanied by a chamber orchestra rather than only an organ. The arrangements, some of which were made by accompanist Stephen Gabrielsen, are beautifully conceived and executed. The solo parts are taken by singers with pure, unmannered voices. Most of the repertoire is typical of what would be expected from English men and boys' choirs, but the use of mixed voices is completely persuasive. Even the most familiar anthems, such as Adam's O Holy Night, Rutter's Candlelight Carol, Darke's In the Bleak Midwinter, and David Willcocks' arrangement of the Sussex Carol, come across with freshness and focused intensity. Most of these pieces are contemplative and are performed with a wonderfully expansive serenity, making this an album that would be ideal for anyone looking for dignified and warmly expressive Christmas music.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Mass in B minor|