Search - Mats Rondin, Bengan Jansson, Joakim Agnes :: Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas
Mats Rondin, Bengan Jansson, Joakim Agnes
Home for Christmas
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Soundtracks, Classical
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #1

Christmas albums by opera divas hardly make an exalted genre. Usually they involve overblown arrangements, hackneyed material, and singers sight-reading music they don't particularly like and making lame attempts at singin...  more »


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Christmas albums by opera divas hardly make an exalted genre. Usually they involve overblown arrangements, hackneyed material, and singers sight-reading music they don't particularly like and making lame attempts at singing in English. With all her integrity, Anne Sofie von Otter would never do such a thing, and she hasn't here. This disc is a personal, eclectic mix, with the mezzo-soprano sounding sincere and approachable by sticking to the lower end of her range using small-ensemble arrangements you might hear in an evening sitting around the fire. In fact, rarely has Otter sung with such warmth as in Pereic Moraeus's "Koppangen," accompanied by accordion, guitar, violin, and mandolin. Not only is her English good but she seems to connect with the language emotionally. Amid the cozy, jazzy renditions of "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" and "Silent Night," there are a few lapses into eccentricity, such as an atonal string ensemble arrangement of "White Christmas" that easily could've been done by Alban Berg, and some Nordic-language forays in which Otter seems to be getting in touch with her primitivistic Viking roots. With good taste displayed elsewhere, she's allowed. --David Patrick Stearns

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CD Reviews

Refreshing Christmas Songs
Daniel Robuck | San Jose, CA | 11/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Let's begin by putting one misconception aside. Although Ms. Von Otter is the reigning young mezzo of the opera world, she never intended her Christmas album to be sold as an operatic venture or as a rehash of every other opera diva's Christmas albums. From the title forward, she makes it clear that these are intimate songs of Christmas that were her favorites in SWEDEN, and that's exactly how they are sung. Thus, what you hear in this beautiful set of songs is not Sutherland melismas or high-powered Leontyne Price, but a rich assortment of traditional and contemporary Swedish Christmas ballads, a few American contemporary classics (most Swedes know English better than most Americans, and that includes our music too), and a few classical Christmas chestnuts scaled down to quartet and quintet proportions. The warmth of Ms. Von Otter's voice is made even more so by removing the operatic 'head voice', bellowing volume and 96-piece orchestras, replacing those with a quieter tones, controlled mid-ranges, and relaxed pacings. Rather than huge orchestrations and choruses conducted by a star conductor, Von Otter has wisely chosen to sing with the simple, quiet, folkish instrumental background of guitar, accordion, a violin, a recorder, and a few piano notes or two. This album sounds as though it could have been recorded in her Swedish living room with a roaring fire blazing and smorgasbord on the sideboards, with an occasional sip of grog between songs. Years ago, Eileen Farrell, grand diva of the Met in her day, showed an ability to appeal to the rarified audiences of grand opera, yet turn around and record showcase jazz stylings of Porter, Gershwin, Wilder, and Kern in 'another voice.' With 'Home for Christmas' Von Otter shows that she too has those 'other voices,' and that she can use those voices at their peak for the magic of all forms of music: Baroque masters, Mozart trouser roles, art song recitals, the 20th century dissonances of Weill and Korngold, and, now, the music of common folk. She is a blessing to the holidays and a gift to the musical world."
"Home for Christmas" is a Rare Gift
William W. Adams | 12/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Van Otter's "Home for Christmas" is simply marvelous. I read a rave review in Opera News and went out to buy the CD. (I didn't want to wait a few days for to get it to me.)It was sold out at one Tower Records shop in NYC and at the Metropolitan Opera's own shop. When I finally found a copy and put it on, I knew why it had been snapped up. This is Christmas and seasonal music that makes you sit down, shut up and just listen - then play it again ! The title gives you a clue that you don't pick up until you hear the music; it's the kind that could be played in your home (if you have five superb musician friends and a world-class mezzo-soprano right down the street.)Warm, wonderful rendtions - most of them of songs (some Swedish) that I had never heard before."
Beautiful but not for every taste
William W. Adams | 12/06/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I love this album--but my family is tired of hearing it! I always like to find a new and different Christmas album each year and feel lucky to have discovered von Otter. This recording won't please those who expect the same familiar songs, nor I suspect those who are looking for very classical, operatic Christmas music. So if you want to listen to a simply beautiful voice and enjoy a variety of different music then I would definately encourage you to get this CD. Most of the songs in Swedish are familiar tunes and the song "Koppangen" alone is worth getting the CD for. Happy Holidays."