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Christmas Concert

Christmas Concert

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Recorded here is something which normally is evanescent over the airwaves or in the Philharmonie am Gasteig: the pre-Christmas evening in the series of Munich Sunday concerts, featuring Helen Donath as one of the most distinguished lyric sopranos of her times, the boys’ choir Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows and the Munich Radio Orchestra under the musical direction of Kurt Eichhorn. On this special evening, excerpts from Händels Messias could be heard, followed by Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto grosso Op. 6,8 Concerto per la notte di natale, Mozart’s Motette Ave verum corpus KV 618 and the Laudate Dominum from the Vesperae solennes de confessore KV 339, Christmas carols performed a cappella by the Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows (dating mostly from the 17th and 18th century) and Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate KV 165.


Here is a reissue of a Christmas Concert (Weihnachtskonzert) from Munich’s Philharmonie am on December 11, 1988 which begins with a sequence of six Messiah excerpts, starring as soloist the great soprano Helen Donath. It has been issued before – as you can see, the YouTube excerpts have a different cover – and it sees daylight once more to grace Yuletide 2022.

These concerts were a regular event in Munich, with the Regensburger (literally, “Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows”) and the Munich Philharmonic under Kurt Eichhorn. When it comes to Corelli and Handel. This is pretty much good old-fashioned modern instrument interpretation of Baroque music, but injected with energy. Here are a couple of movements from the Corelli Christmas Concerto (Concerto grosso, Op. 6/8) to give you an idea. The Messiah (Messias) excerpts are all sung in German – so “Glory to God” becomes “Ehre sei Gott”; but what a choir this is.

Three Mozart pieces bookend the carol part of the programme: initially the choral Ave verum corpus (K 618), restrained and beautiful, and this, a supremely beautiful “Dominum” from Vesperæ solennes de confessore, K 339. The carols are heartwarming, and performed a cappella. Johann Stobäus’ Nun laßt uns mit den Engelein is a lovely chorale carol, each phrase beautifully sculpted, as are the phrases of Bach’s Ich steh’ an deiner Krippen hier. I admit a weakness for Johannes Eccard’s O Freide über Freund’. But I think it is Adeste fideles, beloved of all, surely, that sums up the glory of this choir.

…and what a perfect way to close, with that lovely Mozart Exultate, jubilate, K 165, festive and joyous (and listen tot he trills in her solo vocal cadenza in the first part. After a tender “Tu Alleluja ,” with Donath’s voice bright and agile, each note like a pinprick of light. There is a rather nice, extended interview with Helen Donath by Bruce Duffie available here, laced with many photos, plus scans of Donath’s famous record sleeves. A real treasure of a disc, and a step back in time! At a generous 77 minutes in duration, this is a lovely, heart-warming Christmas disc.

-- Classical Explorer

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Orfeo
    • UPC/Barcode: 4011790446011
    • Item Number: ORF-C230091