Various Artists

We Wish You a Merry Christmas [Decca]

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Featuring an all-star lineup on 15 lavishly produced tracks, Deutsche Grammophon's We Wish You a Merry Christmas is a big-hearted tribute to the holiday season that is sure to please many fans of vocal music. With a program that ranges from Renaissance motets to modern songs and carols, and with a roster that includes the world's most famous opera singers, choirs, early music ensembles, and symphony orchestras, this album has as much variety as can be squeezed into 54 minutes. Of course, it takes a listener of wide tastes to appreciate everything, since the styles include the grand antiphonal choral music of Michael Praetorius, Baroque string writing in the Christmas Concerto by Giuseppe Torelli, the Romantic lyricism of the Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria," and the modern pop standard in Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," with many other musical flavors and fashions in between. The performances are even more varied -- including the golden voices of Anne Sofie von Otter, Roberto Alagna, José Carreras, Bryn Terfel, Luciano Pavarotti, and Plácido Domingo -- and the instrumental warmth of violinist/conductor André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra, the rich tone of the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan, and the glorious sounds of the Gabrieli Consort and Players under Paul McCreesh are just a few of the artists presented on this 2007 extravaganza. No doubt some will find fault with the volume levels, which seem quite loud and boosted on most of the tracks and which may make home listening a little uncomfortable. But for those who plan their Christmas parties in a big way, this spectacular CD may be the perfect accompaniment.

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