Shaw's Christmas Moods


Robert Shaw held nothing back when he recorded The Many Moods of Christmas. Marshalling the forces of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the album is sumptuous, both in the size of its forces and the grandeur of its arrangements.

In the extended opening medley, the final four minutes are devoted to a formidable presentation of "Adestes fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful." The performance begins quietly with the subdued voices of a male choir. Then a huge trumpet fanfare introduces the massed voices of the entire symphony chorus singing the praises of the Lord. Not even the fanfares that introduced the chariot races of Ben Hur and Spartacus could top the triumphant energy of this thrilling finale.

Shaw, of course, was as much a master of the small and intimate as he was of the large and robust. Thus does the Latin hymn "O Sanctissima" begin quietly, maintain its angelic energy for several minutes before the heavens part to make way for a rousing, full chorus rendition of "Joy to the World." Then the energy again changes as Shaw coaxes the most nurturing sounds imaginable from his singers.

Wonderfully sung and played, this ambitious program is far more than background music. It's a presentation that every symphony orchestra and chorus would long to have the resources to produce. Even if you've had to trim your gift list this year, playing this CD will surround you with all the richness of the Christmas season.

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