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Cat. No. CHAN 10385 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10385 - Vaughan Williams: Christmas Music
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Available From: 01 October 2006
Released in perfect time for Christmas, this unique disc conducted by Richard Hickox (famous for his interpretations of Vaughan Williams), with the City of London Sinfonia presents the premiere recording of Vaughan Williams’s On Christmas Night and the only available recording of The First Nowell. Vaughan Williams loved Christmas and had a lifelong passion for carols, admiring their freshness, beauty and nobility. Vaughan Williams’ seasonal compositions reflect his love of Christmas in general and of carols in particular.

The Fantasia on Christmas Carols was dedicated to Cecil Sharp and is based on four traditional English carols: ‘The Truth sent from above’, ‘Come all you worthy gentlemen’, ‘On Christmas Night’ (The Sussex Carol) and ‘There is a fountain filled with blood’, plus hints of other carols. This is a recording of the alternative scoring using an organ and strings accompaniment rather than orchestral.

On Christmas Night was originally called A Christmas Carol as it was a free adaptation of Dicken’s story of the same name. This ballet score commissioned by Adolf Bolm, a principal dancer with Diaghilev’s company and first performed in 1926. The work receives its premiere recording on this release. The score is very atmospheric and juxtaposes complex melodies with simple folk tunes, and interspersed with carols. The First Nowell, a nativity play for soloists, chorus and small orchestra, was arranged and adapted from medieval pageants by Simona Pakenham. A number of traditional tunes are included in Vaughan Williams’s arrangement such as On Christmas Night, The Cherry Tree Carol and God rest you merry. Vaughan Williams said to Pakenham, ‘I think that every Christmas play ought to begin with God rest you Merry and end with The First Nowell.’

This truly is music to be played and cherished during the Christmas period.

"...The late Richard Hickox leads a beautiful performance of all three works. Indeed, his Fantasia on Christmas Carols I think the best I’ve heard. Sarah Fox is sweet-voiced in both On Christmas Night and The First Nowell. Roderick Williams (or maybe Simon Keenlyside) may well be my favorite baritone right now. He possesses a beautiful voice which he uses intelligently. His breath control seems to know no limit and allows him to phrase anywhere he wants and to subtly color his line. The choir and orchestra are thoroughly professional, but it’s the ensemble and the music that become the stars. Highly recommended."
Steve Schwartz


On home ground here, Richard Hickox obtains excellent performances from his own City of London Sinfonia, the fresh-voiced Joyful Company of Singers, and two fine soloists, Good sound too.
BBC Music Magazine

Hickox makes an eloquent case for the score, which is handsomely played by the City of London Sinfonia. As for Vaughan Williams’s nativity play ‘The First Nowell’, it almost combines innocence and knowingness as any good Nativity play should.
International Record Review

An absolute joy for everyone
The Organ

This is safe Richard Hickox territory and he obtains idiomatic and enjoyable performances. Splendid recorded sound.
Sunday Times

Hickox is well supported throughout by the Soprano Sarah Fox, the Joyful Company of Singers and the orchestra he founded, the City of London Sinfonia. Special Praise must go to the mellifluous baritone soloist Roderick Williams, who has made some excellent recordings lately but none better than this. The Chandos sound is exemplary.
Daily Mail

                  Editor’s Choice
"There’s no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with this enchanting disc, which contains some delightful rarities. OK, so there are the requisite number of carols, but nothing ever sounds hackneyed from Vaughan Williams. With glowing playing and singing under the baton of Richard Hickox, there’s plenty for the head as well as the Christmas hearth."



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