From Stephen Hough to London Brass, the best albums of the year

From a fresh take on old favourites by King’s choir to Chopin Nocturnes by Stephen Hough and London Brass’s latest, the best albums of the year

My Kersfees Album of the Year is In The Bleak Midwinter: Christmas Carols From King’s, where arguably the world’s most celebrated church choir is directed by its recently appointed director of music, Daniel Hyde.

This generous 75-minute album consists of 16 carols sung during the traditional 2020 Christmas Eve service, broadcast all over the world, and four additional ones.

Last year’s service at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, went out without a coughing and shuffling-around congregation, so there is a rapt, contemplative atmosphere throughout.

Hyde injects a freshness into these old favourites, as if a beloved painting had been given a light clean, so it glows more brightly than before

Hyde injects a freshness into these old favourites, as if a beloved painting had been given a light clean, so it glows more brightly than before

Hyde injects a freshness into these old favourites, as if a beloved painting had been given a light clean, so it glows more brightly than before.

Also highly commended is the crowd-funded Joy To The World from London Brass. Groot word, most of us enjoyed Salvation Army bands oompah-ing their way through festive carols. This is way more sophisticated.

Most of the arrangements are complex, bringing out the extraordinary talents of some of London’s finest brass players. They also cast their net more widely than carols, so there’s music from Bach, Vivaldi and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.

Carol connoisseurs will also enjoy An Oxford Christmas from the excellent Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea (home of the Chelsea Pensioners), directed by William Vann.

Carol connoisseurs will also enjoy An Oxford Christmas from the excellent Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. A fascinating listen, with some delightful rarities included

Carol connoisseurs will also enjoy An Oxford Christmas from the excellent Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. A fascinating listen, with some delightful rarities included

The carols are taken from the 1928 Oxford Book Of Carols, edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams and issued on Albion, a label devoted to this great British composer, whose 150th anniversary we celebrate next year.

A fascinating listen, with some delightful rarities included.

I also enjoyed Strange Wonders, folk-song-style arrangements by Caitriona O’Leary and friends of carols taken from two volumes of Wexford Carols, gepubliseer in 1684 en 1728. Yet more joyous rarities here.

Turning to stocking fillers, I strongly recommend my Album of the Year, the complete Chopin Nocturnes, recorded in lockdown by Stephen Hough and sounding wonderfully fresh throughout.

For people who love a good tune, why not pop into their stocking Naxos’s repackaged five-CD set of the Orchestral Music Of Leroy Anderson, America’s light-music king, very well played by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin.

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