RSNO's charming Christmas collection

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Chorus & Children’s Chorus give an engaging performance of old and new Christmas favourites

Composer: Various
Repertoire:  A Family Christmas
Artists: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Chorus & Children’s Chorus/Christopher Bell
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Vocal 
Label: Signum Classics SIGCD 202

The Music Predictable enough Christmas fare plus a few less usual gems: alongside Jingle Bells and Sleigh Ride there’s the ravishing ‘Sandman’s Song and Evening Prayer’ from Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, ‘This Little Babe’ from Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and some spirited waltzes. This nice balance of freshness and familiarity adds up to maximum seasonal magic. 

The Performance The CD is designed to recreate the atmosphere and sense of occasion at the RSNO’s very popular Christmas concerts with Bell, and it certainly succeeds: the orchestra and choirs are on cracking form, especially the kids, jollying along the sleighs, letting the ice sparkle and the jazzy numbers melt. The solo singers don’t seem to be credited in the booklet, which is a pity: the Sandman – not the easiest aria – does a great job, even if Franck’s Panis Angelicus doesn’t quite match it. It’s lovely to find a disc that manages to celebrate seasonal fantasy without sentimental goo. 

The Verdict There are plenty of Christmas albums around, as you know, but this one is blessed with an extra dose of charm. Listening to it, I can almost smell the cranberry sauce. 

Want more? My favourite midwinter festival work is the Vivaldi Gloria. Try the Choir of King’s College Cambridge under Stephen Cleobury, with Michael Chance and Jonathan Lemalu on EMI Classics (557 2652).