If you’re seeking a quieter, more restful and (dare I say) traditional form of Christmas Spirit than you’re getting from Slade, Wizzard and Phil Spector, then here’s something very beautiful: a collection of classical, orchestral pieces all themed around the Yuletide season.
Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s splendid Carol Symphony (the third movement of which achieved greater fame in the 1980s as the creepy-but-festive theme to the BBC series “The Box Of Delights”) appears here in one of perhaps only two recent (and available) recordings and is beautifully played/ recorded. This alone justifies Naxos’ bargain price!
But let’s not ignore the remaining tracks. Each one is a miniature gem that manages to capture something of a festive feel, whether it be the happy, cheeky crispness of Bryan Kelly’s Carol Improvisations and Philip Lane’s Wassail Dances (the modest Lane also writes the sleevenotes) or the solemn, gentle, melancholic flipside represented by a most alarmingly beautiful arrangement of Peter Warlock’s Bethlehem Down (originally for voices, here played by strings) or Patrick Standford’s jubilant Christmas Carol Symphony. Whatever it is about Christmas music that makes it “Christmassy” is represented in spades on this unassumingly priced CD. A word of warning though: it makes for odd listening any time outside of the Festive Season – exercise caution playing it in June!