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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Daily album review 39: A pan-European survey of Christmas perfection from RIAS Kammerchor

By John Terauds on December 13, 2013

(Matthias Heyde photo)
(Matthias Heyde photo)

The RIAS Kammerchor (Chamber Choir) of Berlin has celebrated its 65th birthday with a survey of Advent- and Christmas-themed a cappella sacred music that is as technically perfect as human-made sound can be.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

The producers of Noël! Christmas! Weinachten!, released on Harmonia Mundi, describe the effort as a concept album, with the nearly 72 minutes of choral glory designed to take listeners on a spiritual and aesthetic journey from darkness (the four weeks of Advent) to light (Christmas Eve). But that’s gilding the choral lily.

ChristmasSimply put, here are 20 musical masterpieces from across Europe, spanning Johann Eccard (1553-1611) and Arvo Pärt (born in 1935), sung with a balance, clarity and precision that could leave you wondering about digital intervention in the editing suite — unless you’ve witnessed this remarkable choir’s superhuman precision in concert.

Most of the repertoire chosen for the album, which includes sublime pieces by Anton Bruckner and Francis Poulenc, is familiar to lovers of sacred choral music. But there was one particularly sweet find for me: a goreously intimate setting of Ave maris stella by Edvard Grieg.

Hans-Christoph Rademan is flawless in his direction of 19 women and 18 men — all professional singers. As I listened, I kept wondering if this is flawless good or flawless bad, so fine is this line.

For all the album details, click here.

Here is a taste of RIAS flawlessness in a Christmas album from 2009, under previous director Uwe Gronostay, singing Kindelein zart by Franz Wüllner (1832-1902):

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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