Various Artists

Ave Maria: The Ultimate Sacred Christmas Album

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Billed as "the ultimate sacred Christmas album," AVE MARIA has reason to claim the title: performances of some of the world's most beloved seasonal music by top international performers make this CD a yuletide tradition in the making. These vocal and orchestral performances feature such legendary performers as Joan Sutherland, Sophie von Otter, and Luciano Pavarotti. The selections without a single featured vocalist are by renowned ensembles such as Sir Neville Marriner's Academy and Chorus of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Each takes advantage of the supreme lyrical nature of this seasonal music, with patient, tempered performances.

Two versions of the title track, "Ave Maria," are the only duplications. Soprano Leontyne Price's soaring and melodic interpretation opens the album with a heavenly beauty, while the power of José Carreras' tenor presents a human passion. Overall, the music presented is a delicate delight, the vocalists' tender performances spreading the joy of the season to a new audience.

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