STYLE: Choral RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 154447- LABEL: Audite AUDITE97711 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
For over 40 years, Uwe Gronostay (1939-2008) influenced German and European choral culture as a conductor, teacher and administrator in equal measure in the professional choral scene. He would have turned 75 on 25th October 2014. To mark this occasion, the German label Audite has released this CD with Christmas carols recorded by Gronostay for the RIAS (Radio In The American Sector) Berlin during the 14 years of his period as artistic director of the RIAS Chamber Choir between 1972 and 1986. Thus these recordings have been previously issued (although not necessarily officially) and the booklet blurb is keen to emphasise that this latest release has the best audio quality yet. I would concur with this and although I noticed the occasional moment of tape hiss it did not detract from my enjoyment and, frankly, if I had not been warned I would not have listened for it. The carols on this CD form a dramaturgical cycle, beginning with the mysterious night into which falls the light of God; there follow narrative and devotional songs as well as hymns of praise leading to the birth of Christ, then back into the night that also symbolically bears within itself the breaking of the new day. They form an arc extending from the music of the Renaissance and Baroque to Romantic choral works, settings of lieder and compositions of the 20th century. The singing is in either Latin or German and if you want the texts you have to visit the Audite website. Alongside several well-known pieces such as "In Dulci Jubilo" (set by Carl Loewe) and Franz Gruber's "Stille Nacht", there are also lesser-known ones that will offer interested listeners a welcome expansion of the Christmas repertoire. Most were new to me and while there were none that I disliked there were few that grabbed my attention. The splendidly named Johann Nepomuk David's "O Oriens Splendor Lucis Aeternae" is one to which I will return. The a cappella singing is numinous and generally very clearly recorded. Those looking to explore off the mainstream of Christmas choral music will find this an interesting journey.
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