Hannover Boys Choir

Vom Himmel Hoch: Weihnachtliche Kantaten und Motetten Norddeutscher Meister

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Originally recorded in 1987, this disc still offers a pleasant mixture of Christmas music from northern Germany, performed by the unusual (at least for 1987) combination of boychoir and historical-instrument ensemble. The Knabenchor Hannover is one of a number of strong regional children's choirs in Germany, with an especially fine group of soloists showing their stuff in the little cantata Willkommen, süßer Bräutigam, for the lovely combination of two sopranos, two violins, and continuo (Welcome, Sweet Bridegroom, track 7). The choir's talents are applied to a program bookended by Michael Praetorius at the beginning of the seventeenth century and Georg Böhm, a generation before Bach, at the other, with several organ works as interludes. The full variety of treatments of chorale-based material evolved over this time, yet the particular tone of the Christmas music of the region -- tuneful, pastoral, with an almost naïve simplicity -- remains constant. The album was recorded not in the studios of North German Radio, the co-producer of the release, but in a small East Frisian church that fits the music as closely as any place could. A delightful collection recommended both for Christmas collections and for fans of children's choirs, who will find the cream of nonprofessional children's solo singing here. The highest recommendation, however, is saved for German speakers, for the booklet is only in that language.