The timely release of A Baroque Christmas, the sixth CD from the highly acclaimed and exemplary Australian Chamber Choir, is another gift from heaven. Seventeen choral gems from the late 1400s to the end of the Baroque period, recorded live in concert, represent the supreme artistry and polished delivery that has brought this popular and fine vocal ensemble resounding success and international recognition. Pure and expressive voices, vibrant sonority and dynamics, absolute pitch and perfectly balanced textures enhance the spiritual and reflective qualities inherent in every piece.
The order of the seventeen selections flow seamlessly, contrasting reverential simplicity and the awe of the Mystery of Christ’s Birth, (Ave Maria – Josquin des Prez, O Magnum Mysterium – Tomas Luis de Victoria, and the poetic and timeless Es Ist Ein Ros’ Entsprungen – Praetorius) with the more robust Gloria Missa Pange Lingua of des Prez and Gabrieli’s O Magnum Mysterium with its more complex and jubilant rhythmic setting for two choirs. The ever popular carol melody In Dulci Jubilo is given a fascinating and most satisfying airing with Samuel Scheidt’s arrangement for two choirs, as echoing textures and changing meters, combined with angelic, bell-like soprano voices, add further heavenly joy. Several rarely performed choral treasures add great interest in this collection, such as the uplifting dance-like lyrical Resonet in Laudibus by the Lutheran composer Johannes Eccard, whose music allows the ACC to showcase their skills in producing perfect diction, affective character and striking colourful timbres.
In the Lutheran hymn style, the beautiful and more dramatic structure of Hammerschmidt’s motet – Hallelujah, freuet euch ihr Christen alle contrasted a beautifully balanced trio of men’s voices in the verse, which alternate with buoyant and rejoicing “Hallelujahs” in a joyful and rejoicing reprise. In this recording, how satisfying it was to press “Replay” and enjoy this colourful work over again. The ACC’s mastery of elaborate counterpoint, technical mastery of the Baroque style and tonal control within an impressive dynamic range was fully shown in Bach’s motet Lobet Den Herren. Again the festive “Alleluias” were resplendent as the basses revealed rich and healthy resonance in their descending lines. This Baroque Christmas recording offers a fine Bach selection, with Elizabeth Anderson’s pristine and accomplished organ work featured with two contrasting movements of Pastorale in F, and in O Jesulein Suss with the accompaniment for soprano Elspeth Bawden in a gold star performance expressing simplicity, intimacy, lyrical gentleness and purity of sound.
The Angel Gabriel, a popular traditional Basque carol, arranged by David Wilcocks, provides an extra flavour to this fine Christmas feast.
Director Douglas Lawrence has not only programmed concert recordings of seventeen rarely heard works that showcase the skill, vocal beauty and professional artistry of the ACC, but also included a 24-page booklet complete with informative program notes, full texts and translations.
To be released on November 4, 2020, the CD A Baroque Christmas is for sale at www.AusChoir.org/CDs