The juxtaposition of old and new which lies at the heart of much Christmas music lends this recording by the mixed-voice Choir of The Queen’s College Oxford its theme. The repertoire ranges in period from Hildegard of Bingen to pieces composed during the last few years. The central work – Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols – vividly encapsulates the intersection of ancient and modern, setting medieval and Renaissance texts, and drawing on plainchant as musical inspiration, while – in its series of fresh, vivid, and sharply-etched miniatures – eschewing the sentimentality which had become attached to Christmas and its music. Three centuries earlier, such combinations of old and new were just as apparent in the vast Christmas output of Michael Praetorius, the principal Lutheran composer of his age. Through works ranging from dramatic double-choir settings to the simplest harmonisations of chorales, this recording explores Praetorius as transmitter of older Christmas texts and and melodies. The links between Praetorius’s time and ours are represented in the pairing of Praetorius’s Es ist ein Ros entsprungen and David Blackwell’s exquisite reimagining of the same carol, Lo how a rose e’er blooming. An Advent chant forms the basis of Judith Weir’s haunting Look down ye heavens from above which opens the recording, while Cecilia McDowall’s Now may we singen perfectly captures the exuberance of its medieval text and Jonathan Dove’s The Three Kings evokes the strangeness of Dorothy L. Sayers’s transformation of the story of the Magi.
All downloads include booklets