Recorded in 1985, The Spirit of Christmas finds Ray Charles performing a variety of holiday favorites with vocal assistance from the Raelettes and an appearance by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. The ten tracks mix standards and originals, including "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and the ballad "That Spirit of Christmas," which was featured in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The Spirit of Christmas is perfect background music for any holiday celebration.
It's hard to think of a twentieth century Czech-language opera that has enjoyed more success than Leos Janácek's Jenufa, and there is certainly no shortage of good recordings of it. Among the most exceptional is this effort for Decca led by Charles Mackerras. Elisabeth Söderström is riveting in her portrayal of the small-town girl desperate that the empty-headed Steva, played by Petr Dvorský, will marry her and legitimize their child.
A trim, at times, almost balletic Falstaff. If that seems a ludicrous contradiction, I should explain that it refers to Dutoit's spirited interpretation of the work, not the central character, though Falstaff himself has shed a few pounds in the process but is no less loveable. Indeed, Dutoit's swift tempo for the second section (at the Boar's Head) has the theme for Falstaff's 'cheerful look and pleasing eye' sounding less like Tovey's understandable misunderstanding of it as ''blown up like a bladder with sighing and grief''. The trimming down process is abetted by the Montreal sound, with lean, agile strings and incisive brass (the horns are magnificent). Some may feel a lack of warmth in the characterization. I certainly felt that the first presentation of Prince Harry's theme (0'40'') could have done with a richer string sonority. Doubtless, too, there will be collectors who, at moments, miss the generous humanity of Barbirolli, or the Straussian brilliance of Solti. And although Mackerras is wonderful in the dream interludes and Falstaff's death, the start of his fourth section, with Falstaff's rush to London only to be rejected by the new King, is short on teeming excitement and anticipation. (Gramophone)