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Album Review: Piano Christmas
Peter Kater
Cover image of the album Piano Christmas by Peter Kater
Piano Christmas
Peter Kater
2009 / Point of Light Records
53 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Piano Christmas is an exciting new solo piano Christmas album from Peter Kater. The recording is made up of twelve tracks that include traditional Christmas pieces, a couple of newer popular Christmas songs, and some classics that aren’t always associated with the holidays. Many so-called “new age” holiday recordings are beautiful and restful, which is wonderful, but some of Kater’s arrangements also convey the excitement and anticipation of the holidays as well as thoughtful reflection. This is a wonderful album to chill with, but it would also make a wonderful backdrop for holiday get-togethers.

Piano Christmas begins with an energetic arrangement of “Coventry Carol,” a piece that is often mournful and very dark. Kater respects the spirit of the song yet gives it a new take that works well. “Walking In The Air” is a newer (1982) song. Originally composed for the animated film The Snowman, the haunting melody has become one of my favorites. Kater’s arrangement is livelier than I’ve heard it before, but it’s gorgeous. I’ve never thought of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1” as a Christmas piece, but it fits in well. Kater’s arrangement is much fuller and more complex than the original piece (another one of my favorites), bringing it into the 21st century. “Angels We Have Heard On High” is a carol that is often successfully jazzed up, but Kater gives this one reverential treatment - a beauty! “What Child Is This?” is also quiet and peaceful, and I suspect that this is mostly a lovely improvisation. “Pavane Variations” is based on the Faure’ classic, and Kater creates a magical spell with it. “O Tannenbaum” is one of the simplest of the Christmas melodies, but Kater’s variations on the melody are warm and heartfelt. His arrangement of “Canon in D,” is fairly loosely based on the Pachelbel classic - recognizable, but a welcome change from the norm. “Let There Be Peace on Earth” is a prayerful and passionate plea for peace - stunning! Kater’s “Oh Holy Night” is one of my favorite recorded versions of this song. Often performed in a very dramatic fashion, Kater slows the melody, keeping it simple and deeply emotional. The closing track is “Prelude in G Minor Variations” by Albinoni, another classical piece that is well-suited to a holiday album, even though it is not usually associated with Christmas. Dark and intense yet achingly beautiful, it’s a excellent choice as a closing piece.

Peter Kater has been one of my favorite artists for many years and Piano Christmas lives up to all expectations. It will be a welcome addition to anyone’s holiday collection, and the not-so-Christmassy selections will make it easily playable all year. Highly recommended! It is available from peterkater.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes.
October 18, 2009
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday Albums