Julianne Baird / Parthenia Viol Consort

As it fell on a Holie Eve: Music for an Elizabethan Christmas

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As it fell on a Holie Eve: Music for an Elizabethan Christmas is an apt description of the contents of this album of Renaissance-era music for voice and viols, but it may not be the best choice for listeners looking for music to celebrate a contemporary Christmas. The music itself is exquisitely graceful and the performances are beyond reproach, but the tone is largely so solemn and so many of the works are in a mournful minor mode that it may not deliver the boost of holiday cheer that generally characterizes albums marketed as Christmas music. For listeners who are looking for a beautifully performed and produced CD of Elizabethan music, though, it perfectly fits the bill. Julianne Baird sings with a light, silvery soprano that emphasizes the gentility of the music. Her use of ornaments in pieces as familiar as the Coventry Carol is unusual, but it's done so artfully that it's completely convincing. Parthenia, A Consort of Viols, is weighted to the low register, with two bass, one tenor, and one treble viol, and that adds to the sense of gravity of many of the selections. The blend of the ensemble is flawlessly smooth and polished, and the playing is flexible and spirited. MSR Classics' sound is not large or especially spacious but it is clean and warm.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:08
2 3:02
3 4:30
4 1:17
5 2:45
6 1:13
Gradualia seu cantionum sacrarum
7 4:27
8 1:56
9 3:10
12 1:04
13 1:50
14 4:32
Elizabethan Dance Suite
18 2:26
19 3:36
20 2:07
21 2:07
22 5:25
blue highlight denotes track pick