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Leontyne Price: Christmas Songs

4.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
  • Composer: Adolphe Adam, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Gounod, Franz Xaver Gruber, John Henry Hopkins, et al.
  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B0000041TH
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,377 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is one of the most beautiful Christmas offerings any opera singer, or for that matter, any singer has made to the vast wealth of Christmas recordings. If I could only have one Christmas record (and I still have this one as a record!) it would be this one. Needless to say, when it came out as a CD, I was ecstatic!
Recorded in the early 1960's when Leontyne Price was in her vocal prime, this performance captures her impeccably-produced, shimmering, rich sound. Although this is the same sound she used on the operatic stage, it does not seem out of place when applied to these simple carols and hymns. Whereas other opera stars have opted for lavish orchestral accompaniments, large back-up choruses, and extravagant arrangements, Miss Price, accompanied by Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic, favors simplicity. She sings We Three Kings to a sparse orchestra background, O Tannenbaum with a cappella choir, Hark the Herald Angels Sing with organ, and Sweet Little Jesus Boy as an unaccompanied solo. (On the original record, by the way, the latter was the opening track on the second side, setting if off spatially, as well as musically, from the rest of the program.)
When needed, however, Miss Price is fully capable of opening her glorious voice in praise and jubilation - and does. Von Himmel Hoch builds to a thrilling climax, combining chorus, orchestra, and soloist. Two selections "O Holy Night" and the Mozart "Alleluia" are the closest Miss Price comes to operatic presentation in this otherwise restrained and gorgeous Christmas offering.
The pure beauty of her sound in the Schubert "Ave Maria" never fails to bring tears to my eys.
When I hear Miss Price singing, I know it's Christmas.
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Format: Audio CD
This is probably the best Christmas album ever. Recorded in 1961, it features the voice of Leontyne Price at its most unbelievable. Her voice has always seemed to me to be one of the most stunningly beautiful ever, and that impression was strengthened after listening to this recording. Particularly astonishing is her heavenly top range; she just flips a switch and the most gorgeous sound ever comes pouring out effortlessly. In "O Holy Night," the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria," and the Mozart "Alleluja," she hits (repectively) a high B-flat, B-natural and high C that made my jaw hit the floor. I sat in a stupor until I reassembled my wits and hit the rewind button.
Another great thing about this album is the sensibility of the arrangements. This is, mercifully, not another of those soupy, cloying Christmas CDs featuring orchestras of approximately 120 members. Several of the carols are recorded without orchestra, and those that are recorded with it feature only a small portion of the huge Vienna Philharmonic. (On the cover, it says "Mitglieder der Wiener Philharmoniker" - Members of the Vienna Philharmonic.) I much prefer to hear Christmas carols with a smaller orchestra.
The only quibble I have about this is the short playing time: only 39 minutes. That is extremely short, but the recording comes at a special low price. However, it can be disappointing to sit through forty minutes of glory and then realize that that's it!
This has vaulted to near the top of my list of favorite recordings. I urge anyone who does not have this to get it immediately, featuring as it does some of the most gorgeous singing imaginable (or unimaginable!).
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Format: Audio CD
There's no need to tarry too long in this 'review'. Others have already eloquently lavished praise on this recording. I simply must add my own hosanna to theirs. Without a doubt, the singing of soprano Leontyne Price -"La Splendissima" - is incomparable here. There has never been a soprano with a timbre so incredibly distinctive & beautiful that also infuses her music with a rare humanity and humility. Every Christmas is inauguarated with this recording at my home, and those fortunate enough to receive this CD as a gift from me, are infinitely grateful & astounded by Ms. Price's gifts.(especially those not inclined to Opera singers!)
Her collaboration here with Maestro Von Karajan is just as rewarding as all of the others including "Carmen", "Tosca", the Verdi "Requiem"(VHS/DVD), and a legendary "Il Trovatore". These (2) musical 'giants' seem to derive inspiration from each other that ignites a passionate response from each as well. Nowhere is this more evident than in their now 'classic' rendition of the Schubert "Ave Maria". Listen to the ethereal, voice-like intro of the orchestral strings that precedes Ms. Price's celestial vocalism. It's magical! The programme is diverse and deeply satisfying for the Season. Miss Price's singing, whether in this rep, singing Spirituals, the recital stage, or Grand Opera, is almost always an inveterately soulful experience. It is no less so here. Celebrate the Season (any Season you like) with "La Splendissima" Leontyne Price singing classical 'Soul' music at Christmas. Get this!!!!!!!!
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Format: Audio CD
If I were forced to spend Christmas on a desert island and compelled to leave behind all but one of my numerous Christmas albums, I would choose this one without hesitation. This album features an unbeatable (and unbelievable) quartet - one of the best soprano voices on record, the greatest conductor of the twentieth century, one of the two or three best orchestras in the world, and one of the best classical record producers of the stereophonic era (John Culshaw). There's very little room for improvement on this album. Karajan conducts his formidable forces with great restraint, allowing Price's marvellous voice to shine - as it beautifully does through Culshaw's excellent production, which conveys a wonderful feeling of warmth. About the only problem is that some of the selections are very short in length - "O Tannenbaum", "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" check in at less than two minutes each. This, however, is a minor quibble because this album truly is almost perfect. Although almost all of the recordings here are excellent, the Negro spiritual, "Sweet Li'l Jesus Boy" really stands out. Price sings it completely a capella. It's a truly AMAZING recording and must be heard to be appreciated. Listening to this album is the KEY element in surviving a desert island Christmas.
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