The Swedish Chamber Choir (former Simon Phipps Vokalensemble) is one of the jewels in the crown of Sweden’s unmatched choral tradition. Here the choir follows specialist recordings of music by Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc and Johannes Brahms with an exquisite celebration of the northern European Christmas.
The choir describes its album So Fair and Bright as ‘a Christmas smörgåsbord where everyone can find at least some of their favourite dishes, while being tempted to try some intriguing novelties as well.’ Britten and Poulenc reference the ensemble’s past projects; Grieg and Nielsen glance over borders and waters to Norway and Denmark. But while there are evocative Yuletide masterpieces included by the likes of Rutter, Pärt, Gabrieli and Sweelinck, the album’s heart lies in Sweden – where traditional folk songs meet seasonal gems by Hugo Alfvén, Gustav Nordqvist and other.
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s brass quintet join the Choir under its founder and director Simon Phipps for the recording, which is as much a demonstration of choral technique and prowess as it is a seasonal celebration. Phipps reveals his experience as an opera conductor in his attention to text and detail, while the choir’s full-bodied but delicate singing – and notably bright, smooth soprano tone – combines atmosphere with excellence.
A must-have Christmas album, wherever you’re celebrating!
O vad glädje ifrån Gud, from Piae Cantiones / arr: Mats Åberg
Hodie Christus natus est / Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck / arr: Simon Phipps
Ave Maris stella / Edvard Grieg
A Hymn to the Virgin / Benjamin Britten
Stilla i mitt sinne / Bengt Lundin / Birgitta Wennerberg-Berggren
Bogoróditse Djévo / Arvo Pärt
Förunderligt och märkligt / Carl Nielsen / Hans Adolf Brorson, Oscar Mannström
Nativity Carol / John Rutter
Stjärnan / Susanne Rosenberg
O Morgenstern / Arvo Pärt
La lune est levée / Trad / arr: George Aubanel
O Jesu Guds son / J.S. Bach / Valentin Thilo
Jubilate Deo / Giovanni Gabrieli / arr: Simon Phipps
Julsång / Hugo Alfvén / Edvard Evers
O magnum mysterium / Francis Poulenc
In the Bleak Midwinter / Benjamin Britten / Christina Rossetti
Jul, jul, strålande jul / Gustaf Nordqvist / Edvard Evers
Riu, riu / Mateo Flecha / arr: Noah Greenburg
Gammel julesang / P.E. Lange-Müller / Ernst von der Recke
Yeoman’s carol / Simon Phipps / arr: Henrik Torolphi