Sunday, 6 December 2015

Timeless carols from around Europe, beautifully realised by Michala Petri and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble under their director, Michael Bojesen on a new OUR Recordings release

Renowned recorder player Michala Petri has teamed up with the Danish National Vocal Ensemble for a delightful recording of traditional Christmas carols and songs entitled Let the Angels Sing for OUR Recordings  in arrangements by the choir’s director Michael Bojesen

These carols and songs from across Europe date from 13th to 19th century beginning with the 13th c. Basque carol, Gabriel's Message arranged here for soprano, choir and recorder. It has a lovely opening for recorder player Michala Petri who is soon joined by a wordless soft, gentle choral layer, creating an exquisite atmosphere. The choir soon takes over and expands this well-known carol with the recorder adding a lovely, well-judged accompaniment. Midway, there is a lovely solo for Danish National Vocal Ensemble soprano, Malene Nordtorp and recorder.

The 14th c. Franciscan carol, Angelus ad Virginem has a rather folksy, lively recorder opening before the choir take this buoyant carol forward, finely phrased with a terrific vocal flexibility. Michala Petri provides some terrific flourishes and later there are lovely choral drones supporting an intricate recorder theme to conclude.

Up! Good Christen Folk from Piae Cantiones, 1582 brings a delicate repeated ‘ding, ding’ from the choir pointed up by a similar recorder motif before the carol moves forward with some first rate choral textures and more lovely recorder contribution, such agile playing.

Recorder and choir bring a lovely atmosphere to the 18th c. Czech carol, Rocking in this lovely arrangement.

A lovely recorder theme opens the 18th c English carol, A Virgin Most Pure before the choir join with some fine layers of the male voices. Michala Petri adds lovely decorations as the rest of the choir join building a terrific sound. There is some particularly fine recorder playing later as Petri soars and weaves around the choir.

An American pastor, Edmund Sears wrote the words for It Came Upon a Midnight Clear in 1849. These words were set by a student of Felix Mendelssohn, the American composer, Richard Storrs Willis. The English tune sung here was an arrangement by Arthur Sullivan of an earlier melody. Here there are lovely harmonies from the Danish National Vocal Ensemble who bring a rich clear sonority with Petri adding some lovely low recorder to the choral sounds.

King Jesus Hath a Garden is a lively 17th c. Dutch carol into which this choir quickly launch with some tremendously agility and perfectly phrased singing. Michala Petri weaves some lovely lines around the choir in the opening of the14th c. German In Dulci Jubilo as she does later, adding so much to the joy of this piece.

The choir bring a long, flowing line over a rapid recorder motif in the 16th c. English Coventry Carol with Petri bringing a lovely timeless quality to the music before a gentler end.

A fine arrangement of the 16th c. English carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen where sections of the choir overlay in canon with more fine decorations from this recorder player.

There is a charming arrangement of the 17th c. Czech Zither Carol bringing a ‘ding, dong, ding’ from the choir with the recorder pointing up the theme before soon moving ahead with joy and energy. Unto Us Is Born a Son is also from Piae Cantiones, 1582.  This choir bring some lovely harmonies to this arrangement together with a lovely flow.

Michala Petri opens the 18th c. Polish Infant Holy, Infant Lowly with a gentle, hush before the wordless choir join. They soon move ahead in this gloriously arranged carol bringing a soft mellifluous choral tone. There is a lovely fluent recorder opening to the 14th c. German The Linden Tree Carol. The choir joins to lead ahead bringing all their lovely layering of voices with further fine recorder decorations.

Good King Wenceslas is again from Piae Cantiones, 1582, arranged for choir and recorder and bringing more, fine wordless choral sounds and a lovely recorder theme. The female voices bring the main carol soon joined by the whole choir, each section having their heads with some lovely recorder flourishes.

Blessed Be That Maid Mary is an English, 15th c. carol that opens with soprano voice of Danish National Vocal Ensemble member, Nina Bols Lundgren again showing the individual quality of this choir’s voices. The full choir soon bring a lovely, gentle mellow tone with some fine passages for individual sections of the choir.

Finally we come to the 15th c. French carol, O Come, O Come Emmanuel in a sensitive arrangement for choir and recorder. Michala Petri opens before the male voices of Danish National Vocal Ensemble deliver a lovely, direct version of this carol that is soon harmonised beautifully. The choir move through gentler sections with a lovely recorder accompaniment, bringing much care, thought and gentler moments of reflection before rising a little to conclude.

There are many popular carols here, quite beautifully and rather intimately realised by Michala Petri and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble. Fine musicianship brought to bear on these timeless carols from around Europe make this a disc to return to all through the season.

There are interesting notes in the nicely illustrated booklet as well as full English texts. The recording made in the Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark is first rate.

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