Sunday, January 2, 2011

Music Review: We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Joy to the World

John Williams is assuredly best known for the lush and grandiose scores that he composes for feature films. However, he has also composed several strictly classical pieces, the theme music for several Olympic Games, and music for television shows. He also did a stint from 1980–1993 as the lead conductor for the Boston Pops Orchestra. It was in this capacity that he recorded these Christmas albums: We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Joy to the World.

I'll admit here at the beginning that my preferences in Christmas music follow this pattern: instrumental > choral > pop > Neil Diamond > Bob Carlisle. So while the choral pieces in these two albums [1] were decent, what I really enjoyed were the orchestral medleys. They managed to capture both the delight felt at Christmastime while also conveying a sense of majesty at the birth of our Savior.[2]

My verdict: Overall I enjoyed both of these albums. You can definitely detect John Williams' flair in the arrangements. I preferred the instrumental pieces over the choral pieces, but the choral pieces were still decent.[3] My only complaint is that most of the tracks were medleys, so you never got a full treatment of, for example, "O Holy Night." Even so, I would recommend both of these recordings.


[1] Performed by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

[2] Two of the medleys, "A Christmas Greeting" (from We Wish You a Merry Christmas) and "A Christmas Bouquet" (from Joy to the World) are composed of the carols of Alfred S. Burt, whom John Williams new personally.

[3] There was also a telling of "The Night Before Christmas" by Robin Williams on Joy to the World that was rather enjoyable.

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