"Remember the "Andre" champagne commercial from the 70s? The one featuring a recording of "Carol of the Bells" and quick shots of people ringing in the new year? Well that recording of Carol of the Bells is the definitive version (in my book anyway). And it is featured on the 1997 Sony reissue of the "The Joy of Christmas" featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the New York Philharmonic conducted by the great Leonard Bernstein. This is one of THE classic holiday LPs, beautifully remastered for CD. In addition to "Carol of the Bells" one of the best choral versions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (5+ minutes) is included here along with fourteen other traditional carols (no pop standards here).
These sixteen numbers from the original LP clock in at almost 50 minutes - a very generous recording time for an LP from 1963. Still Sony Classics decided to extend the reissue a bit and has added the following bonus tracks, all featuring Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic. ~ Selections from Tchaikovsky's Suite from the Nutcracker (recorded 1960): what you get is seven of the eight movements included in the suite - not sure why but the climax of the suite - the "Waltz of the Flowers" - is omitted. ~ A 1970 recording of the Children's Prayer from Humperdick's ballet "Hansel and Gretel", a quiet movement of gentle lyricism. ~ To close the program a 1956 recording for the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah". Again Bernstein conducts the NY Philharmonic, but instead of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir the singing is provided by the Westminster Choir. It's a splendid performance.
The bonus material provides an additional 23+ minutes of wonderful music to bring this recording up to a total 74 minutes. In a world of 30 minute Christmas CDs this is a wonderful release and should be in the collection of every Christmas music lover.
Update: Memory is apparently a tricky thing and after viewing the old Andre commercial on Youtube it is clear that the recording of "Carol of the Bells" used is not the one on this LP. The one here is superior in EVERY way. Still, I apologize if the beginning of my original review was misleading in any way. :)"
I was there....
J. Bevan | Mansfield, TX USA | 08/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In August or September of 1963 I received a call from my high school music teacher. They were looking for a small audience to act as acoustic padding to soak up some of the reverberation of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Get down there quick, he said, Bernstein's recording with the Choir. I went and sat through the first of two sessions for this recording. It was fascinating. Bernstein came out and greeted us remarking that he always remembered his concert in the Tabernacle because "it was the loudest applause he had ever heard" (the Tabernacle itself lending to that amplification). He launched right into "Joy to the World" making adjustments to the freshly finished arrangement. All the arrangers were present. The ink wasn't dry on their manuscripts. The NYP would sight read through them a couple of times, Bernstein would adjust, and they'd do a take or two. The Choir had been preparing for many weeks. The sessions weren't entirely smooth. Bernstein was an entirely different personality than their long experience with Ormandy had been. Bernstein demanded precision. He usually got it by the final take. The album was released in less then two months. Eventually it "went gold" -- unusual for 'classical' albums of the time. I started playing it in October, 1963. There hasn't been a Christmas since that these wonderful arrangements and the memories of that summer haven't graced our family's celebration. It's advent on CD was late but most welcome."
Arguably the best classical Christmas album ever made.
R. W. Rasband | 12/10/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A tour de force of the passion of the season. What better orchestra than NY Philharmonic ? Or better chorus than Mormon Tabernacle? Or conductor than Bernstein? The combination of these peerless artists along with stunning arrangements will leave the listener inspired; breathless; enthralled; moved; in tears. Pick any or all and enjoy this spectacular work. What a teasure."
Great performance of old Christmas favorites
Matthew Spady | New York, NY | 12/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this CD re-release of an old LP, all of the performers -- Leonard Bernstein, the NY Phil and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir -- seem to be putting their best foot forward even though for the NY Phil and Bernstein, it was not their usual fare. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has long been known for its rich, full tone, with Bernstein, they are more precise, both musically and textually -- no mushmouth diction on this recording. Nor is there any stodgy playing from the NY Phil; Bernstein keeps everything moving at an invigorating pace. For the most part, this is usual Christmas fare; the most adventurous carols being Patapan and La Virgen Lava Panales, though neither of those are particularly obscure. Even so, part of the comfort of Christmas is the yearly repition of the familiar, so this recording fits the bill perfectly, both as music to listen to carefully, and as background music during Christmas festivities (Apologies to the purists, but let's be honest, some of us like background music.)In addition, this CD includes cuts from other Bernstein performances with the NY Phil: The Nutcracker Suite, an orchestral version of the Prayer from Hansel and Gretel (particularly lush in this performance) and a stirring Hallelujah Chorus with the Westminster Choir."