The Sixteen's compilation of three of its Christmas albums offers a generous and wide selection of seasonal music. The diversity of performance practices mastered by the English mixed ensemble, founded and conducted by Harry Christophers, shows that it has the stylistic range to persuasively put across repertoire from the medieval to the contemporary to traditional, old-fashioned carols. The medieval carols and songs from this album, Christus Natus Est: An Early English Christmas, have an infectious, rustic buoyancy that's completely appropriate, while the Renaissance motets from the same album are sung with absolute purity and precision. In Britten's "Ceremony of Carols," from the album Hodie: An English Christmas Collection, the female sopranos and mixed altos do such a good job of matching the pure, white sound of boy trebles that sometimes it's possible to forget that adults are singing. That CD is rounded out with largely meditative anthems by Romantic and contemporary composers, including Howells, Warlock, Walton, and Tavener, sung with warm, rounded tone. A Traditional Christmas Carol Collection is exactly what it says it is -- an assortment of mostly familiar carols in new, but comfortingly conventional arrangements with organ or guitar accompaniment. Here again the singing is just right -- not flashily virtuosic, but totally secure, committed, and nuanced. The recorded sound for each of the CDs is clean and nicely resonant. This bargain-priced collection should be ideal for anyone looking for a broad assortment of Christmas music, some of it very familiar and some of it less so, all beautifully performed.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
|A Ceremony of Carols, for treble voices (or chorus) & harp, Op. 28|
Track Listing - Disc 2
Track Listing - Disc 3
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (adapted by W. H. Cummings from Mendelssohn's Festgesang for the Gutenberg Festival)