The music of Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo ("YAY-lo" comes close enough for government work) lands in a space between minimalism, New Age music, and film composition. It's obviously not something for Milton Babbitt fans, but the elements are cleverly fused together, and Gjeilo, a resident of New York, has found success both in the U.S. and Britain (probably more so than in Norway). Those layers here interact with three others: Gjeilo's own piano, the instrumental group 12 Ensemble, and the Choir of Royal Holloway under its conductor, Rupert Gough. The program delivers the promised focus on winter with a original settings of texts by Christina Rossetti, Emily Brontë, Hildegard of Bingen, and more, but most of the pieces are arrangements of familiar carols. These are entirely fresh. They're not sentimental beyond the basic nature of the material; they place the tune in unusual ways; and they hold the interest with variations in register and texture. Sample a piece as familiar as Silent Night for a taste. Likely one of the most successful holiday releases of 2017, and rightly so.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim