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A Christmas Celebration: Kathleen Battle
Kathleen Battle, Traditional/various, Leonard Slatkin
A Christmas Celebration: Kathleen Battle
Genres: Special Interest, Classical, Christian
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #1


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Uplifting music by a superior soprano
Daniel L Edelen | Mt. Orab, OH USA | 12/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you could only have two Christmas CDs, Kathleen Battle's "A Christmas Celebration" would definitely be one (and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" would be the other.)While Battle has been known to be a temperamental diva (leading to a quasi-banishment from operatic roles), her pretty, soaring soprano is without peer. So good is her voice that I would consider several of the cuts on this disc to be definitive performances, not only of Battle's repertoire, but of all performances ever of that song.Case in point would be her rendition of Gounod's "Ave Maria". Haunting and stunning at the same time, it's as if the angel itself were singing. "Mary Had a Baby" is another fabulously rendered, gospel-tinged beauty.One of the other strengths of the collection is the sheer breadth of carols and hymns. Modern, traditional, and ancient songs are here. Common carols and more unusual ones appear. Among the less heard songs are "Fum, Fum, Fum!", "Marie Wiegenlied", "Zither Carol", and "Rise Up, Shepherd". Stylistically and internationally, Battle runs the gamut, too, making the album wonderfully cosmopolitan. In all, between the stand-alone songs and the medleys, there are twenty-five selections in almost sixty-three minutes of recording time.Leonard Slatkin, long of the St. Louis Symphony, conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and is ably backed by The Boy's Choir of Harlem and others. The sound is rich and full, the mic work impeccable. The recording itself is DDD and shows it. Despite being recorded in 1986, everything is fresh today.You cannot go wrong with this CD. It is one of the best Christmas albums ever recorded and a great way to get into the spirit of Christmas."
Pure Joy
Burly Nerd | Waynesboro, VA United States | 12/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In a world where disturbing things are all too common, Christian scripture guides us to dwell on that which is lovely. Kathleen Battle's blessed voice is most certainly one of those lovely things. I bought this CD in the early 1990's, and I am here to buy it again because I have worn out the original with scratches, etc. I only listen to it during the Christmas season, but I enjoy it enough to hear it all year.The 'Christmas Celebration' CD should be enough to convince you to also purchase Kathleen's 'A Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert'. Ms. Battle's wonderful soprano voice is joined by that of the mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, and the blending is more than memorable. There are a couple of songs which are on both CD's, but you'll want to hear both. In fact, the video of the PBS special is also available, and I recommend buying all three. You won't regret it.Some of my favorite selections from 'Christmas Celebration' include 'Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabelle' and 'Fum, Fum, Fum', both of which are from a culture different from my own. I found such glimpses into unfamiliar favorites to enhance my own enjoyment of the Christmas season, as long as all of my traditional American favorites were included. They were. "I Wonder As I Wander" and "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" are there among the other favorites.This CD's music is the kind that sets a wonderful Christmas mood. It can establish memories that say "Christmas" in the memories of children for life. Along with other classics like 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and 'The Nutcraker' (from your favorite orchesta) and George Winston's 'December' and a few others, you will slowly be able to assemble a Christmas music library that will stay with you for life."
A Christmas Collection For The Ages
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 11/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If there is one performer I miss hearing on a regular basis, it is Kathleen Battle. Anytime I knew that she'd be in a Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast, I knew it would be a performance to remember and more often than not, I was correct. She has a light voice that reaches the upper reregisters with ease and has as a gorgeous sound. She not a regular at many opera houses these days, and in likelihood, if she still did perform on the world's opera stages, we'd be hearing critics say her voice was not what it once was, but thanks to her recorded legacy, her voice will, always have that youthful, energetic sound.

Overall I believe that Ms. Battle performs better in complete opera recordings than recital albums, but most of her recital recordings are of at least good quality and this Christmas collection is outstanding. She handles all of the works with apparent similar ease, but since the recording is so varied, this is a compliment to her skill as a performer. She begins and ends with "O Come All Ye Faithful" where she does a few vocal acrobatics but it's never overdone. Each time I think of what the bets part of the collection is, my mind changes. She brings her skills from the operatic stage in her renditions of "O Holy Night," "Gesu Bambino" (only Pavarotti sings this better, but it's a very close second), and "The Zither Carol" which sounds so much like something that could come from the mouths of Oscar from UN BALLO or Zurbinetta from ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, two of her signature roles. The music from the African American Spirituals tradition and American background are well done and the accompaniment of the Harlem Boys Choir, used to great advantage here adds so much.

With so many Christmas collections from the world of opera available, choosing one can be difficult, but this is one collection that has proven to be a joy for almost fifteen years and will continue to give holiday pleasure for years to come.