With this CD, Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg make a welcome (and unconventional) contribution to the deluge of Christmas music that appears every year. This collection of mostly obscure songs and piano solos should be of strong interest to those looking to expand their collection of Christmas music beyond the relentlessly recycled standards. The CD includes music by composers of widely diverse nationalities -- Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Finnish, British, French, German, Italian, and Cuban. The music, apart from the selections of Bach cantatas, will be new to most listeners. Except for the Bach, the pieces are largely written in late romantic and early twentieth century styles, with gratifying vocal lines and lush piano accompaniments.
Von Otter brings such vocal purity and such nuanced expression to her interpretation of each of these songs that it is difficult to single out individual pieces; each one is sung persuasively and lovingly. If pressed, special attention could be called to Walter Ehret's haunting arrangement of the English folk song So Blest a Sight and Joaquín Nin y Castellano's set of lively villancicos. Bengt Forsberg provides von Otter with piano accompaniment that matches the eloquence of her performance, and he is featured in several solos. The warmth of the recorded sound perfectly suits von Otter's voice and the mood of the music.