CD Review: Merry Christmas From Vienna/ Vienna Boys Choir


The Vienna Boys Choir’s  2015 Christmas release Merry Christmas from Vienna out on the Deutsches Grammophon label (DG 00028948119479) is a heart-warming anthology of sacred and secular festive songs that include both the traditional and the modern. If ever the Vienna Boys Choir made a recording that you could sing along with or dance to – then this is it!

There is nothing that compares with the purity and ring of the treble voice. A whole choir of seamlessly blended, meticulously trained trebles who perform in expert style is what lies at the heart of the Vienna Boys Choir’s centuries old iconic reputation.

Also featured on the recording are Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, one of the Vienna State Opera’s rising ensemble members and tenor Rolando Villazón, along with the choir’s resident orchestra the Schubert-Akademie and for something different, the band WienerWunderAllerlei (drums, toys, piano, bass and woodwind) and the brass and drum ensemble phil Blech Wien.

The eclectic mix of eighteen Christmas songs opens with the customary call to congregate, Adeste Fideles sung in Latin in traditional choral style. The recording ends with Franz Gruber’s incomparable classic, Silent Night, exquisitely sung in English by Aida Garifullina with orchestral accompaniment and the choristers joining in the refrain.

The songs in between come from all times and places – Rolando Villazón sings a tender O Holy Night backed by the choir; the peal of the boys’ voices vividly brings to life Leontovich’s Carol of the Bells. There are core pieces from the traditional German language repertoire – the 18th century  Fröhliche Weihnacht überall  and Leise rieselt der Schnee by the German pastor Eduard Ebel, a century later;  in French there is the traditional  Il est né le divin enfant.

From the New World there are songs which swing (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) and those which rock (Jingle Bell Rock), the Latin rhythms of José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad and the very English We Wish You a Merry Christmas followed by John Lennon’s sobering and timely Happy Christmas (War is Over).

The arrangements of the songs are splendid and refreshingly different, most of them by the president of the choir, Gerald Wirth, himself a choir alumnus, now a revered conductor, composer and choral educator who has been artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir since 2001.

An impeccably performed mix of the classical and the contemporary.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

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