TRAD: Sussex Carol; Prayer of Thanksgiving; God Rest Ye, Merry, Gentlemen; The Holly and The Ivy; Gloucestershire Wassail; Ding Dong Merrily on High; Mary’s Lullaby; Shepherds Left Their Flock A-Straying; Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella; Sleep, Little Dove : SMALL; December 26: HANDEL: Hallelujah Chorus; HOLST: In The Bleak Midwinter: GRUBER: Silent Night.
Small – Torres Guitar Duo (with Sarah Roth, violin, Nancy Hare, Cello and Kathy Ann Lord - Oboe)
Shadow Mountain: SM52802
If this fabulous recording by the Small – Torres Guitar Duo doesn’t get you feeling Christmassy, then nothing will! This very clear and close ( but not too much ) recording is a mixture of the well – known , and the not – so – well known, and a few I have personally never come across before. The arrangements are simply gorgeous, 4 of them by Robert Torres, and the other 10 by Mark Small and if they are not in print, then they REALLY ought to be, for they are imaginative, quite unexpectedly arranged in a number of places, but with everything fitting so beautifully on the guitars without sounding pretentious that many a decent guitar duo would simply love to play them. Yes, a few do have the cello, violin, and the oboe with them , but that would not stop a good duo from making a beautiful concert up that consisted of just these fourteen pieces!
There are so many brilliant pieces here, both vibrant and dance – like on the one hand, and smooth, gentle and emotive on the other that it is extremely hard to simply pick out the best of them, for they are all wonderful, but I loved the use of the harmonics on Ding Dong Merrily on High, a nice touch and very apt too, the very swift Sussex Carol that had some lovely part writing in it , and made a superb opener to the album, followed by the haunting oboe and cello on Prayer of Thanksgiving, and , to name one more here , the unusually harmonised but beautifully done version of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.
Of the pieces I hadn’t heard before I thought that Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella, had some haunting sounds, aptly aided by the other musicians, and Sleep , Little Dove was very special indeed, and a lovely sound , beautifully played , as indeed are all the pieces here, and a real stand- out piece of music.
Finally the Hallelujah Chorus was one I wasn’t expecting to work, and it surprised me, because it really did work in a most unexpected way, and the Gustav Holst In the Bleak Midwinter also, was simple done and yet very touching throughout, which led me to the final track, Silent Night, which after a most unexpected introduction led to the Christmas tune that perhaps everyone has a little space in their hearts for, and this performance was everything you might have hoped it would be, and a very fitting conclusion to a superb recording of wonderful performances of fourteen lovely arrangement s of songs you will know , and also not know at all! This definitely one to get!