New College Choir, Oxford / Edward Higginbottom

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

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This collection of traditional carols and less familiar Christmas anthems and motets is adequate for casual listening or for providing a background Christmas-y ambience, but the performances don't stand up to close scrutiny. Edward Higginbottom leads the Choir of New College, Oxford (a men and boys' choir) and Collegium Novum Ensemble in lackluster accounts of repertoire of rather modest technical demands. The performers seem to be going through the motions of making joyful music, but a palpable lack of energy consistently lugs the music into the doldrums. Tempos are consistently on the stolid and sober side, to the point of feeling slack and lethargic. The singers' pronunciation is fine, but hardly up to the standard typical of the best British men and boys' choirs, where it is crisp and lively. Similarly, their intonation is never seriously off, but it's only lackadaisical in approximating unanimity of tuning, where it's not uncommon for British choirs to have an astonishing purity and precision. The repertoire, a mix of the overly familiar and the obscure, doesn't reflect a very carefully thought-out program or have a particular target audience in mind. The sound is fine, but given the superabundance of choral Christmas albums that surpass this one in just about every aspect, it's hard to give this collection much of a recommendation.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
3:04
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
2
4:26
3
3:13
4
2:47
5
6:21
6
3:12
Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, for chorus, FP 152
7
3:50
8
2:26
9
3:16
Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, for chorus, FP 152
10
2:42
11
3:12
12
5:58
13
5:46
14
3:57
15
3:57
16
2:56
17
1:53
18
3:41
blue highlight denotes track pick