Dashing - More Sounds of the Season. © 2021 Navona Records LLC

CD Spotlight

Imaginative and Different

A variety of Christmas music from Navona Records, heard by KEITH BRAMICH

'... played superbly.'


Unlike the other Christmas CDs I've reviewed this year, this one's theme is 'a festive assortment of new classical and jazz arrangements and compositions inspired by staples of the holiday season'. This is not very specific or focussed, at least at first glance, but an international variety of composers and performers is featured, and Navona Records is always generous in its wide-ranging coverage of a whole spectrum of music genres. The title 'Dashing' presumably comes from the 'dashing through the snow' of Jingle Bells, but might also represent our dashing around buying things before the holiday season.

The first work is Christmas Wayfarer by American composer and string player Sarah Wallin Huff, a music lecturer at California Polytechnic University of Pomona, who describes herself as a 'stream of consciousness composer'. Here the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Stanislav Vavrinek weave their way through a variety of Christmas themes, opening the album in an attractive and imaginative way.

Listen — Sarah Wallin Huff: Christmas Wayfarer
(track 1, 0:00-0:58) ℗ 2021 Navona Records LLC :

After this 'overture' we hear three traditional Christmas carols - Good King Wenceslas, Silent Night and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - beautifully arranged, each very differently, by American composer Joseph Turrin and given vivid performances here by pianist Kristina Marinova, president of World Piano Teachers Association Collaborative Piano.

Listen — traditional, arranged by Joseph Turrin: Silent Night
(track 3, 0:00-0:37) ℗ 2021 Navona Records LLC :

Vince Guaraldi's Christmas Time is Here is given a very smooth and almost sultry arrangement by Josh Trentadue, played by Hope College Orchestra conducted by Christopher H Fashun, with Jordan VanHemert on sax, Lisa Sung on piano, Rodney Whitaker, bass and Jeff Shoup, drums.

In complete contrast, English composer David W Solomons provides two original orchestral works. The traditional sounding Sleigh Ride is performed by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra conducted by Peter Illenyi, and they're then joined by soprano Orsolya Sapszon for Winter Scene - sparkling and different.

Listen — David W Solomons: Winter Scene
(track 7, 0:46-1:30) ℗ 2021 Navona Records LLC :

American cellist, composer and arts administrator Elizabeth J Start plays four carols in her own lovely arrangments for cello solo - Three Ships and Three Kings, Lo How a Rose, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and, again, Good King Wenceslas (although it's very different to Joseph Turrin's arrangement).

Then we hear a selection of solo guitar pieces, sensitively played by Alan Rinehart, co-founder of the Vancouver Guitar Quartet. Three are Rinehart's arrangements - of Carol of the Bells, Greensleeves and Un jour Dieu se résolut, and the last is the simple and beautiful Villancico De Navidad by Paraguayan composer Agustín Barrios.

Listen — Agustín Barrios: Villancico De Navidad
(track 15, 1:38-2:27) ℗ 2021 Navona Records LLC :

All the works on this imaginative and different album of Christmas music are played superbly. The selection ends with J S Bach - Jauchzet, Frohlocket! from the Christmas Oratorio in a gleaming arrangement by Joseph T Spaniola for organ (Joseph Galema), - trumpets (Steven Kindermann and Tim Allums), horn (Gary Stephens), trombone (John Gohl), tuba (Gary Poffenbarger) and timpani (Michael Woods). The tune first appears in the timpani, as usual, and then makes its way through the other instruments. For some reason, the entry of the organ is rather surprising.

Copyright © 26 December 2021 Keith Bramich,
Worcestershire, UK







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