by ANNETTE BATTAMS PROGRAMMES
A wealth of Christmas music
THERE is such a wealth of varied Christmas music on record that the listeners would need to sit by their hi fi till way past the Epiphany.
They could start with M. Charpentier's Midnight Mass for two sopranos, counter-tenor, tenor, bass, chorus, two organs and orchestra conducted by Louis Martini-an Argo recording, Mono R.G.376 and on Stereo ZRG 5376; an attractive work rather Purcellian in form.
Purists might prefer their Masses sung to Gregorian chants by the monks of Reuron on MK,' Archive mono APM 14153-4, stereo SAMP 198153-4. I would recommend tlag masses of two Czech composers, Ryba and Brixi; both are on Supraphon -the first, Ryba. mono SUA 10267 and Brixi, mono SUA 10451. The latter is also in stereo SUA 50451.
Bach's popular Christmas Oratorio is not yet available in English but there is talk of an English recording in the future ... perhaps Christmas 1965. Until then we can certainly enjoy the HMV recording mono ALPS 1950, ALP 1951-3; stereo ASDS 501, ASD 502-4.
A less popular work. though a very charming one, is the Christmas Oratorio by the 17th century composer Schiltx on Oiseau-Lyre mono OL 50020 or on Vox mono DL 780. Also on Oiseau-Lyre we have a very good recording of Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christmono OL 50201-2, stereo SOL 60032-3--a fine reading by our own Colin Davis.
One of my favourite Christmas choral works is by the Swiss composer Honegger. His "Christmas Cantata" can be obtained on Decca LXT 6003. Ernest Ansermet conducts L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the choruses of Radio Lausanne, the children's choirs of Lausanne and Villamont and the solo baritone Pierret Mollet.
This rich work is imbue8 with all the mystery and joyful exultation of the Nativity. it contains many familiar themes Latin chants and European carols such as the "Laudats Dominum "Stifle Nacht" and tile lovely. peaceful "Es ist ein ReisEntsprungert".
For more carols and Christmas songs it is hard to know where to begin. Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" on Decca mono LW 5070 -rather special as Britten himself conducts. Also by Britten, "A Boy was Born" and "Rejoice in the Lamb" on Decca LXT 5416.
On Argo RG 399 we have "Sing Nowell" with the Elizabethan Singers and their able conductor Louis Halsey; at the organ the brilliant Simon Preston. As always to be expected from Mr. Halsey we get a scholarly and distinguished musical approach to Christmas music. There are some fine arrangements by Rubbra, Joubcrt, Malcolm Williamson. Britten and others.
There are a few 45s available. The King's College Choir sing carols on Argo ZFA 111, also in "First Nowell" Argo EAF 20 and "The Infant King", Argo ZFA 50. On a Decca 45 the sumptuous dramatic soprano of Birgitt Nilssen singing songs which include the beautiful "Oh Holy Night" by the French composer Adam Decca SEC 5517. CEP 5517. Also on a Decca 45 the belcived Katherine Ferrier-Decca CEP 518.
For tighter and more popular tastes there is a good and varied selection. Bernstein fans (of which I am a fiendish one) will go for his selection labelled "The Joy of Christmas". Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with choir in mostly welltried items and in a few off the beaten track such as the enjoyable "La Virgen Lava Panales". ACBS recording SBPG 62288, MS 6499.
A very highly recommended buy -two discs on oneis the CBS album of Christmas music with the Percy Faith Orchestra and choir. Big. lush orchestra and choral sounds-tempting enough for the listener to join in.
Marion Williams (in lusty voice) and the Stars of Faith give some infectious up-tempo treatments of Christmas spirituals on RM 206. Opp Brunswick LAT 8590 we have tffe sweet and husky Brenda Lee providing her own and very individual approach to Christmas.
For really pleasant, relaxed and restful listening l would highly recommend the warm baritone and unaffected style of the late Jim Reaves on RCA Victor RD-7663.
With folk song becoming "Not so much a programme, more a way of life"! we have the new Christy Minstrels under Randy Sparks'• direction giving us their warm and witty folk song approach to Christmas on ACBSPBG 62287.
The one blue note this Chrismas is provided by Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas' recorded on a LP in 1957 now released on a 45. Only Elvis could get away with this orgy of tremulous Yuletide misery.
Finally, a cheerful re-release on RCA Victor mono LF 1332/20/6 of the Goons' "Unchained Melodies". For all who are as nutty as a Christmas cake.
SATURDAY: 10.45 p.m. (Home) -LIGHTEN OUR DARKNESS -Evening prayer, SUNDAY: 10.30 a.m. (Radio Eireann) HIGH MASS from Holy Ghost College, Dublin.
11.15 a.m. (Telefis Eireann)HIGH MASS from Donnybrook.
6.15 p.m. (BBC-I) MEETING POINT Report an Langley House Trust, a Christian group that runs rehabilitation homes for ex-prisoners. 6.15 p.m. (ABC-TV)-WONDERWORLD Teenagers act out the stories of Stephen and Saul.
6.35 p.m. (ABC-TV) ABOUT RELIGION interview with the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, MONDAY: 8 p.m. (Radio Eireann) -THE COUNCIL OBSERVED by non-Catholics. 8.25 p.m.(Third)--OBJECTIONS TO SCHOLASTICISM Fr. Herbert McCabe, 0.P., discusses Mr. G. F. Pollard's essay in Objections to Roman Catholicism.
MONDAY-FRIDAY: 9.55 a.m. (Light) FIVE TO TEN points from The Heart of Man by Fr. Gerald Vann. After the last programme: (Rediffusion)--I BELIEVE BUT
-Fr. Michael Hollings and an Oxford undergraduate discuss sex education and the Catholic attitude to birth control.
M O NDA Y-S ATURDAY: 7.50 sone. -LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS Fr. George Songburst talks on the stages of man.