Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Seasonal Special: Advent

Once again I find myself in the sweet spot of a target audience, this time as choral music aficionado and Liturgy Nerd.  The commercial season of Christmas has been going on long enough to bring a Scrooge-like gleam to the eye. In liturgical terms, however, we're still in the midst of Advent: a season, ideally, of quiet anticipation. It's one of my favorite times of the liturgical year, so it was with great delight that I discovered a new CD dedicated to music written for it. The Junger Kammerchor Rhein-Neckar, under the direction of Mathias Rickert, has recorded a really rich album, featuring not only music from such luminaries as Byrd, Victoria, and Pärt, but also many creative arrangements and original pieces by contemporary composers. Predictably, I love it.

Not the least of Advent's achievements, in my opinion, is to organize music in disparate styles in such a way that thematic unity wins out. (A complete track list can be found here.) There's even something of a liturgical organization, beginning with "O Radiant Dawn" (MacMillan) and ending with "O Nata Lux" (Lauridsen.) No fewer than 7 of the 19 tracks are based on the "O antiphons," which delights me. The carols featured are likely to be familiar, if not in the present arrangements, to those who have participated in German-speaking Advent seasons. This, for me, is added value; the nicely-produced CD booklet includes both German and English texts (and Latin, where applicable.) The works by contemporary composers are fairly evenly divided between original Anglophone compositions and German settings of traditional or liturgical texts. I'd pick Bob Chilcott's lovely "O Rex Gentium" and Jan Wilke's haunting "Es kommt ein Schiff geladen" as my favorites of these, though not without feeling a little guilty for singling out only two. The dynamic control and vocal blending of the Junger Kammerchor Rhein-Neckar were excellent throughout, maintaining a gorgeous tone while embracing a wide variety of musical styles. I've already listened to the disc repeatedly, and anticipate that it will brighten many future Advent seasons.


  1. Thank you for this nice review, I am very happy that you like my piece! Best wishes from Germany!

    1. It certainly enriched my Advent! Alles Gute im kommenden Jahr!


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