This disc is a far cry from the typical fare we’ve come to expect on the shelves around the Christmas season. The inclusion of Bach’s sublime Cantata 63 and Mendelssohn’s Vom Himmel hoch give the disc a year round appeal. Vaughan Williams’ joyful The First Nowell is a veritable feast of well loved carols and the London Philharmonic Choir together with soloists Lisa Milne and Christopher Maltman exude Christmas cheer.
In his recording of Bach's 48 Colin Tilney, unlike his fellow competitors in the same repertory, plays both a clavichord (Book 1) and a harpsichord (Book 2). Why not? Bach's title for the first book of 24 preludes and fugues, The Well-tempered Clavier leaves both this issue and that of tuning wide open. The clavichord was a favourite instrument of Bach's, so was the harpsichord and the organ; indeed, I am sorry that Tilney does not include a chamber organ since some of the pieces, the E major Prelude and Fugue (Book 2), for instance, seem well-suited to it. Tilney's performance of the 48 differs again from almost if not all others in the sequence which he adopts in playing the preludes and fugues. But an apparently random approach is in fact nothing of the kind, but one that is directly linked with tuning. We know that Bach himself was a master in matters of tuning as he was in all other aspects of his craft. What we do not know is the exact nature of his tuning.
"Christmas Present" is a Christmas album by American pop singer Andy Williams that was released in late 1974 by Columbia Records. A brief blurb in Billboard magazine's Inside Track column in that year's November 23 issue revealed the album's television tie-in: "'Christmas Present' is title of Andy Williams' 11th Yule show, airing on NBC-TV Dec. 11".
Julian Bream is, without a doubt, one of the premiere classical guitarists of the modern recording era. Comparisons between great guitarists is often unfair and misleading as they each have their own styles - and each musician and his/her style tends to be particularly well suited to certain types of music. For example, Andres Segovia's style, cultivated by self-teaching throughout his now ended life, concentrated on flowing legatto smoothness and flowing melodies. Bream's, on the other hand, while equally masterful, is better characterized as emphasizing the precision and crispness of each and every individual note. What better composer to focus on to show this particular proclivity that J. S. Bach, whose work, having been written largely for the keyboards (harpsichord) but also for the lute and triple harp, tends to emphasize the kinds of music Bream excels at. Stacatto phrasings, each written to be played with crystalline exactness, are the types of pieces wherein Bream's magnificence is conspicuous and best showcased. Thus, the special relevance of this particular compilation of some of his best Bach work on this CD.
Brilliant composer and organist Johann Sebastian Bach completes the long journey from his home in Leipzig to Potsdam.
It is no surprise that Sir Simon would one day tackle this most comprehensive of Bach’s compositions in view of his much applauded interpretation of the St. John Passion in 2006. The Berliner Morgenpost wrote at the time: “A performance of this musical calibre renders superfluous all questions about authenticity and historical performance practice. At the Philharmonie Sir Simon Rattle and his orchestra performed the St. John Passion […] with highly concentrated and flawless beauty devoid of any distorting indulgence.”
The two works on this disc perfectly illustrate a particular type of secular cantata, the so-called ‘dramma per musica’. In such works the libretto is constructed dramatically, and the singers embody various roles, such as gods and other characters from antiquity, and allegorical figures. The parallel with opera is apparent, although the ‘drammi per musica’ do without any scenic element. Bach primarily used the form in works intended for princely tributes or academic festivities: educated audiences could be expected to recognize the characters and literary traditions involved.