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CD Review

The Great British Carol Collection

The Essential Collection of Christmas Melodies

  • Richard Marlow: Advent Responsory
  • Robert Lucas Pearsall: In Dulci Jubilo
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: O Little One Sweet (O Jesulein süß), BWV 493
  • Hector Berlioz: The Shepherds' Farewell
  • Peter Cornelius: The Three Kings
  • Henry Walford Davies:
  • The Holly and the Ivy:
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Harold Edwin Darke: In the bleak mid-winter
  • Henry John Gauntlett: Once In Royal David's City
  • Franz Xaver Gruber: Silent Night
  • Patrick Hadley: I Sing Of A Maiden
  • William J. Kirkpatrick: Away In A Manger
  • Karl Leuner: Shepherds' Cradle Song
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
  • Philipp Nicolai: Wachet auf
  • Samuel Scheidt: A Child Is Born In Bethlehem
  • John Tavener: The Lamb
  • John Francis Wade: O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Anonymous:
  • There Is No Rose
  • Ding Dong! Merrily On High
  • I Saw Three Ships
  • The First Nowell
  • While Shepherds Watched
  • The Coventry Carol
  • Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
  • Personent Hodie
  • Unto Us Is Born A Son
  • The Angel Gabriel
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Richard Marlow
Sony Classical 8875-03770-2 2CDs
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"The Great British Carol Collection", says Sony. Well, sort of. Artistically, this is one of the finest collections of carols on the market. The mixed voices of men and women are an unusual combination in the great English choral tradition, and the Choir of Trinity College under the late Richard Marlow had few equals. Anyone acquiring this set will be entirely happy with the beautiful singing – and very fine acoustic – of these magnificent readings. I took a great deal of care to list the composers per our site policy, but with the exception of perhaps The Lamb and a few of the exclusively English staples, all of these are fairly "traditional" carols indeed.

And yet, I cannot suggest you go out and buy this set. "Carols from Trinity", a two-disc set on Conifer (75605-51754-2), is still very much in print, at least in the USA. That set has 53 selections; I hesitate to say "carols" as those discs also include some organ selections. Only in the booklet does Sony admit these are taken from those Conifer sessions. I don't have any problem with a label reissuing another's catalog. In fact, I usually welcome it. But guess what? There are 28 selections here – 28 in 2014, but 53 in 1996 when Conifer first issued their double set. That's unacceptable. Let's assume you don't want the solo organ selections. Fine, take a few tracks out. Don't want any Latin? Fine, have it your way. If you want what amounts to two discs that amount to less than an hour each, I can suggest this current issue. But the older version is cheaper, has more music, more information on the performers (there is no mention of organists at all here) and ultimately more value. Marlow himself is listed nowhere except in small print at the end of the booklet. Every single selection is a good one, each carol is lovingly sung. But it's just not enough for me, even with all of the most famous pieces left intact. This new set cheapens a great choral legacy, and I cannot recommend it despite the unbelievably high standard of excellence on display.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman

Trumpet