Angel Voices: The Boys' Choir Christmas Celebration

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The title of the album, Angel Voices: The Boys' Choir Christmas Celebration, would lead listeners to expect that they will be hearing a recital of music for boys' voices. It does feature several renowned boys' choirs -- the Vienna Boys' Choir, Altenburger Sängerknaben, and Tölzer Knabenchor -- but the majority of the three-disc collection is devoted to music written for mixed voices, sung by choirs in which boys take the soprano and alto parts. On most of the tracks, the boys' choirs are joined by a men's choir to fill in the lower parts for SATB works. The ensembles that are regularly made up of men and boys include Thomanerchor Leipzig (the choir of J.S. Bach's church), Dresdner Kreuzchor, and Regensburger Domspatzen. Of the set's 45 tracks, only 12 are devoted to boys' voices alone. Most of the selections with the Vienna Boys' Choir are anemic, flaccid accounts of choruses from Messiah (in which they are joined by the men of Academy of London), including an excruciatingly droopy and protracted version of "For unto us a child is born." A minority of the performances in the collection, in fact, are up to the standards expected of professional choral ensembles in terms of tone quality, balance, or polish. The exceptions include most of the tracks with Regensburger Domspatzen, Dresdner Kreuzchor, and Thomanerchor Leipzig. The repertoire is weighted toward German and Austrian works from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras. The set as a whole has little to recommend it to either fans of boy's voices or of first-rate choral singing.

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