Well, if you've been hankering for a traditional Christmas, here it is. Spanning the years from the early fifth century, when the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maggiore was built in Rome (where these performances were recorded), to the mid-18th century (when the latest pieces were composed), this DVD celebrates angels and shepherds viewed through the music of the Italian Baroque composers. Composers include Victoria, Palestrina, Frescobaldi, Carissimi, Josquin, A. Scarlatti, Corelli and Vivaldi. Major pieces include Scarlatti's cantata O di Betlemme altera, Corelli's Concerto grosso in G minor op.6 no.1 Christmas Concerto and Vivaldi's Gloria RV 589, performed by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert with Nancy Argenta as soloist. The shorter pieces are performed by the Gabrieli Consort and Players led by a young Paul McCreesh. A short opening fanfare is played by the Renaissance wind band Pifferari.
All of the historically informed performances are superb, as expected from these splendid musicians. The instruments are fascinating in appearance, especially to those unfamiliar with these older, authentic instruments. My favorites are Jeremy West's cornett, which resembles a funhouse clarinet and sounds surprisingly full and warm given its curved shape, and Paula Chateauneuf's 6-8 foot long chittarone (a lute on steroids). The church looks gorgeous: with its gold filagreed walls and columns, mosaic tiled floors, stunning Baroque paintings and frescos, lovely altars, porticos, balconies: the camera simply doesn't know where to pan next. This is a splendid DVD, filmed in performance Dec. 1992. The digitally remastered widescreen picture is crisp and clear, sound in PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 is warm and full. The performances last 102 minutes. The camera is mobile, showing the church in all it's beauty, the performers to best advantage and Rome with all its eternal grace. This is a very traditional Christmas.
If the beauty of a traditional Baroque Christmas celebration is something you've craved, search no more. This is a superb DVD which you'll probably play often during the Christmas season, as well as the rest of the year. Most strongly recommended.