December 2008

Leroy Anderson - Sleigh Ride & Other Holiday Favorites
BBC Concert Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Naxos 8.559621
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Leroy Anderson’s breezy orchestral arrangements have become a part of our social fabric. They are enjoyed and loved by people from all walks of life, regardless of their preference in music. Naxos is recording the complete works of Anderson with Slatkin and the BBC Concert Orchestra and had the smashing good idea to make a special disc with all the holiday favorites, augmented with music that works for the season, if not actually written for it. The result is a most enjoyable 65-minute CD.

I believe that all of Anderson’s specific Christmas compositions have been recorded before. Surely A Christmas Festival is one of the most recorded holiday compositions in the catalog. But I know of no other disc that brings them all together in the same place. Here we also find Sleigh Ride, Suite of Carols for Brass Choir, Suite of Carols for Woodwinds, Angels in Our Fields, O Sanctissima, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, O Come Little Children, Coventry Carol, Patapan, and Suite of Carols for String Orchestra. These are filled out with China Doll, Song of the Bells, The Waltzing Cat, Horse and Buggy, The Golden Years, and Bugler’s Holiday.

Assuming you have virtuoso musicians on hand, the best way to perform this music is to just let it play, without heavy interpretation. Slatkin does just this. His BBC musicians are marvelous, and they play Anderson’s music with precision and warm tone, letting the arrangements themselves make the statements. The appealing recorded sound is clean, sonorous, transparent, and has singular depth. This is one holiday title everyone will want to own, and in these hard times, Naxos’s low list price makes it a real bargain.