Carols by Candlelight

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Carols by Candlelight
The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, Bill Ives (with Martin Ford, organ)

[ Harmonia Mundi / CD ]

Release Date: Tuesday 20 December 2011

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"This choir is always a pleasure to hear, and in repertoire such as this you won't find more musically assured or more tonally concordant interpreters." (10/10 ClassicsToday Nov 2009)

Bill Ives leads the famed Choir of Magdalen College Choir in this selection of choral favorites for Advent and Christmas. The music on this recording ranges from quiet reflection and anticipation to the excitement and celebration of the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Wise Men. Magdalen College is one of the oldest choral foundations in England, with an unbroken tradition stretching back to 1480.The Choir retains much the same shape as it had in the 15th-century, with 16 boy Choristers (educated at Magdalen College School) and 12 adult Academical Clerks (undergraduates of the College).

"Each autumn I begin my search--actually, it's more waiting than searching--for a new, interestingly programmed choral recording of Christmas music that I can keep close by for frequent listening through the holiday season. It looks like it has arrived with this new release from the excellent Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford and director/composer (under the name Grayston Ives) Bill Ives. Organist Martin Ford also adds fine renditions of several chorale-based solo works by J.S. Bach and Buxtehude in addition to his superbly-wrought choir accompaniments.

The program is well-designed with just enough traditional favorites--Britten's A Hymn to the Virgin; Pearsall's In dulci jubilo; Vaughan Williams' The Blessed Son of God; Mathias' Sir Christémas; Gardner's Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; Mendelssohn's Hark! the herald angels sing (with the classic Willcocks descant)--to comfortably tie the familiar with the many more, less-commonly heard pieces.

And among these are some gems, from Stainer's sweetly lovely How beautiful upon the mountains, Byrd's charming two-part treble motet An earthly tree (with its occasional echoing effects), and Guerrero's vibrant setting of the St. Luke text Pastores loquebantur, to Reger's enchanting lullaby Mariä Wiegenlied (sung by unison trebles with organ) and two works by Grayston Ives--an arrangement of the Italian carol Ninna nanna di Gèsu bambino, and an original setting for full choir of Sweet was the Song, mined from the same harmonic/melodic vein as Rutter's What sweeter music--not a bad thing!

Needless to say, this choir is always a pleasure to hear, and in repertoire such as this you won't find more musically assured or more tonally concordant interpreters. Those trebles are wonderful, and the whole ensemble is ideally balanced, especially well-captured here in relationship to the organ and to the resonant acoustic of the Magdalen College venue. You will listen to this many times, not only this year, but for years after--and hopefully the Reger and Ives pieces will turn up more often on other choir's Christmas programs. (Happily publishers for all the works are identified.)"
(ClassicsToday 10/10 Nov 2009)


Ninna nanna di Gesù bambino

Bach, J S:
Chorale Prelude BWV659 'Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland'
Chorale Prelude BWV662 'Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'

A Hymn to the Virgin

Fantasia on 'Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern', BuxWV223

An earthly tree

Gardner, J:
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

Gregorian Chant:
Creator alme siderum

Pastores loquebantur

Ives, G:
Sweet was the song

Sir Christèmas

Hark! the herald angels sing

I look from afar
Rorate coeli

Mariä Wiegenlied, Op. 76 No. 52

How beautiful upon the mountains

O come, o come, Emmanuel
In Dulci Jubilo
Of the Father's heart begotten

Vaughan Williams:
The truth sent from above
The blessed Son of God

Benedicamus Domino

Wood, C:
View me, Lord