Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Christiane Karg is a talented German soprano, probably best known for her recent collection of Mahler songs. She has a pure voice and, so far as I can tell, excellent diction although as none of the songs in this collection are in English, I stand to be corrected. I can, though, say with conviction that they all sounded fine to me. What we get is a Christmas tour, in the company of her accompanist Gerold Huber and on several pieces the Choir of the Bavarian Radio Service under Howard Arman, taking us around Europe with selections from Germany, France, Catalonia, Italy, Scandinavia and Austria. There are some good tunes here, all of which I would describe as concert pieces rather than hymns - which is an observation and not a criticism. Some have been arranged for choirs but there is nothing here that will make its way into a traditional carol service. It is very good at what it does but is possibly only of specialist interest. A list of the composers in the collection might illustrate this. We open with songs by Engelbert Humperdinck - and if your first thought is of Leicester's own Arnold Dorsey you are probably reading the wrong review. I will not burden you with a list of titles that will all need translating. They are all Christmas or at least winter songs and if you are sufficiently interested to consider buying the CD or downloading selected tracks you can do your own research. All the texts, with English translations, are to be found in the CD booklet. We stay in Germany with three songs by Peter Cornelius before heading to Finland for Jean Sibelius before returning to Germany for Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Robert Schumann. Then we head west for France's Gabriel Fauré before we start to get obscure - or at least meet composers with whom this reviewer is totally unfamiliar with the Catalan Eduard Toldrà and the Cuban Joaquín Nin y Castellanos. We return to Europe once more with Norway's Edvard Grieg, Italy's Gioacchino Rossini, and then five French composers in Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel, Jules Massenet, Charles Gounod and Cécile Chaminade. Next stop is Austria with Joseph Marx and our final composer, Richard Straus. Thus we get a good selection of the familiar and the forgotten and listeners who enjoy journeys of musical exploration may well find some new favourites here. Miss Karg is an outstanding singer so even if what she sings is unfamiliar, we can be confident that it has been well sung.
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