A collection of British symphonic Christmas music.
This new recording on the Naxos label makes a pleasant change from the usual seasonal compilations of hymns or pop songs. It takes its name from the most substantial work on the disc--Victor Hely-Hutchinson's A Carol Symphony
--which is complemented with three other symphonic pieces based on Christmas music.
First up is Bryan Kelly's Improvisations on Christmas Carols, a five-movement work based on well-known tunes such as "Past three o'clock" and "I saw three ships". Hely-Hutchinson's work follows. It is symphonic in structure and based on popular carols too, the highlight being the slow third movement where the spine-tingling "Coventry Carol" melts into a magical arrangement of "The First Nowell".
Arrangements by Philip Lane of Warlock and traditional English wassails break up the carolling before Patric Standford's A Christmas Carol Symphony rounds off the disc. It's rousing opening movement combines three jolly carols--"Deck the Halls", "Ding dong merrily on high" and "God rest ye merry gentlemen"--before "Away in a manger" takes over for the second. The grand finale brings together a myriad of carols and songs--I counted nine, but there could be more. --Rebecca Agnew