Gregor von Kallahann | 11/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can't really say I'm sold on this compilation's "Christmas dinner" conceit. I mean, even if I were the kind of person who lavishly entertained during the holidays, I rather doubt I'd try to co-ordinate my meal planning to match the individual tracks of this album. I'd probably be ripping the plates away from under my guests' noses faster than Marjorie Main did to Leon Ames in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Still you gotta hand it to the folks at Laserlight, they're not just putting out yet another "Classical Christmas" compilation. It's hard to know how much real thought they put into the organizing of the selections into "dinner courses," but that doesn't mean there isn't a good overall flow to this disc. It is, in fact, a very nice classical sampler--for just about ANY time of year, really.
Like many a Christmas program, there's a good deal of Tchaikovsky. But it IS kind of refreshing that it isn't all THE NUTCRACKER. The initial track is the beautifully solemn "Pray," which while probably not meant specifically as a Christmas piece, has a quiet grandeur that makes for a fittingly reverential opener.
It's hardly surprising that that track is followed by a passage from Vivaldi's "Winter," or that selections from Handel's MESSIAH and a few passages from Bach's CHRISTMAS ORATORIO are also included. They are certainly welcome additions, even if they are not exactly "holiday surprises." As are the lovely Saint-Saens OROTORIO selections and the spirited Gabrielli brass composition.
Budgetline compilation albums can be something of a hodge podge, and I can't say for sure that this CHRISTMAS DINNER wasn't, in fact, thrown together. But it does flow beautifully,whether due to careful planning or by happy accident. One thing I like about these "bargain" classical releases is that you get to hear some excellent performances from some pretty off-the-beaten track sources. I mean you've got some big names (in the English speaking world, anyway) on board here--Neville Marriner, for one--but it's also refreshing to hear fine work from the Sofia National Opera Orchestra, the Budapest Strings and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony. It's not surprising that excellent work is done in these smaller European cities, mind you, but how much attention do they receive on the international front. Ideally, it would be much more than they're getting now.
(From some other postings here, I see that some customers are getting the wrong product here. Well, caveat emptor...and carpe diem...and, oh, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!)"