Precise performances of festive music
Maddy Evil | London, UK | 08/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This anthology of early Christmas music provides a refreshing alternative to traditional seasonal releases, introducing the newcomer to these works with a representative and well contrasted programme. The performances - by a much reduced Oxford Camerata - are carefully executed and well-balanced, if perhaps not authoritative, and a bargain at this price.
From a musicological viewpoint, there are, however, a few points worthy of mention. Firstly, it must be admitted that there is a certain degree of artistic licence with the title "Medieval Carols" given the inclusion of 2 Renaissance works in the programme - 'Riu, riu, chiu' (from 'Villancicos de diversos autores'  but here craftily attributed to "traditional") and 'Gaudete!' (correctly indicated as of 15th century origin, but in fact here performed as in the extant version from 'Piae Cantiones', 1582). In addition, whilst the 'Agincourt' carol may draw attention to the varying functions served by the Medieval carol, it is textually at odds with the rest of the programme (commemorating Henry V's famous 1415 victory there). Lastly, it seems a shame that here - as on so many other recordings of pre-Baroque Christmas music - texts and pronunciation are modernised, a fact exacerbated by some peculiar word-underlay in some of the editions.
Still, the CD is well worth owning for the music alone (particularly at this price) and goes some way to reminding us that Christmas is more than merely a secular family occasion."