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Sumi Jo - The Christmas Album
Christmas Traditional, Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi
Sumi Jo - The Christmas Album
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
 
Sumi Jo's performances on this record are so splendid that they transcend its rather odd mix of vocal and instrumental combinations, languages, and styles. Using Christmas as its unifying element, the program juxtaposes ...  more »

      
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Sumi Jo's performances on this record are so splendid that they transcend its rather odd mix of vocal and instrumental combinations, languages, and styles. Using Christmas as its unifying element, the program juxtaposes the familiar and the unknown and is anchored by three cantatas: one by Alessandro Scarlatti, sung in Italian; one by Christoph Bernhard in German; and Mozart's famous "Exultate, jubilate" in Latin. They alternate with songs and chorales for both solo and choir, including the well-known unaccompanied folksong "I wonder as I wander," which opens the program. Bach is represented only by a chorale from his Christmas Oratorio. The selection of the instrumental pieces seems less felicitous. Vivaldi's E major Violin Concerto, though associated with Christmas, is not one of his best. The slow movement of an early Mozart Symphony, which is supposed to contain a quote from a German carol, is an even stranger choice; however, it is so beautiful that the incongruity hardly matters. Inevitably, the record includes that most popular of all Christmas songs, "Silent Night," not once but twice: first in German with a fine contralto in her only appearance and an orchestral accompaniment straight out of the movies, and to close the program, in English with violin and fortepiano. Both versions use a melody substantially different from the familiar one. Sumi Jo's crystal-clear, perfectly focused voice sheds a silvery shimmer over everything she touches. Her vibrato is a little too narrow, but the coloratura is impeccable, the phrasing natural. She radiates an infectious joy in her own singing and the music, whether simple or sophisticated, that should light up any Christmas celebration. The accompanying forces are excellent. --Edith Eisler
 

CD Reviews

Beautiful.....but not what I was hoping for
Christopher A. Lanter | Mesa, AZ United States | 09/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Sumi Jo shines as usual on this album.... when she actually sings, that is. Nearly half of the CD is devoted to orchestral and choral pieces. Don't get me wrong - these tracks are wonderful, but I payed for Sumi Jo's brilliant soprano voice.
The only songs that many will recognize that appear on this album are Adam's "O Holy Night" and Gruber's "Stille Nacht/Silent Night" -- recorded not once, but TWICE (one is Sumi solo, and the other is a duet - but still, why??????). I'm not asking for "Frosty the Snowman" here, but I would have liked to have seen more familiar works alongside the more obscure pieces of this CD - "Adeste Fideles", "Gesu Bambino", "The Holly and the Ivy" and "The First Noel" would have all been welcome.
I do laud the inclusion of some of the beautiful, lesser known pieces of this album - the a capella rendition of the traditional Appalachian hymn "I Wonder As I Wander" was a great move, as was the inclusion of "Es ist ein Ros entsprugen" ("Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"). I just wish Sumi Jo was singing with the choir on that one.... :(
In short, this really is a great CD, but if you are looking for all or nearly all of the tracks featuring Sumi Jo, singing mostly familiar Christmas songs along with a few not-so-often-encountered ones (as I was) you might be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for an album of beautiful music, balanced between vocal, instrumental, and choral, and composed of music you've probably never been exposed to before, then this is your album. I guess the standard for Christmas albums by opera superstars (at least for me) is still Kathleen Battle's spectacular one from the 80's - check that one out.
Chris"
Great Voice and Lots of Variety
George G. Morgan | Florida | 11/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Sumi Jo has produced a stunning holiday album, filled with gorgeous singing of many styles. It isn't just an album of her singing, though; there are wonderful orchestral and choral selections too, all of which sparkle with perfection. This is a great addition to my Christmas music collection, and another winner from Sumi Jo."