With the double whammy of being a piano teacher and a music reviewer, it takes a really exceptional Christmas album to knock me out, and Tim Glemser has succeeded in doing just that with O Nata Lux
, one of the most beautiful Christmas albums I’ve ever heard. The album consists of eleven traditional Christmas carols and two stunning originals all performed as piano solos. The title of this album, O Nata Lux
, is derived from the Latin text “O nata lux de lumine,” which translates as “O Light born of light.” This is Glemser’s third album to date, recorded on a Shigeru Kawai SK-7 grand piano at Joe Bongiorno’s Piano Haven Studio. The sound quality is also exceptional - clear, warm and very expressive. The mood of the album is quiet and thoughtful, although the arrangements are complex and very full without being flashy.
Glemser says in the liner notes that every time he sat at the piano to work on the arrangements for this collection, his mind kept taking him back to the beautiful religious hymns and songs that he had grown to cherish throughout his life. “The more I practiced the more I kept feeling a pull to it, to express my gratitude through this music to Him whom I owe everything.” That love, reverence and gratitude sing through every piece and make the whole album very personal. The song selection is a lovely combination of common and not-so-common carols, although none are what I would consider obscure. One is arranged as a medley and some are built on a theme and variations format. Most have passages that are original, adding personalized touches and interpretations to the music.
All of the tracks are stellar, but I’ll tell you about a few favorites. The album begins with “A Joyful Noel,” a medley of “Joy to the World” and “The First Noel.” Glemser gives both songs a slow, flowing style that makes them sound brand new, allowing for a fresh appreciation for the beauty of the melodies. “I Wonder As I Wander” is a traditional Appalachian carol that has recently gotten more popular for its haunting melody. Glemser keeps the melody simple, but adds some really effective original passages that go right to the heart. “O Nata Lux
” is the first of the two original pieces, a tender yet very passionate piece that overflows with expression and love. “What Child Is This” is another favorite, and Glemser’s arrangement focuses on the haunting melody. “The Coventry Carol” is an ancient carol that conveys a feeling of tragedy and loss. Through a series of variations on the theme, Glemser tells the dark tale of King Herod’s attempt to kill all of the baby boys. This arrangement is nothing short of breathtaking! Glemser’s own “The Nativity” ends the album with a gentle message of hope and redemption.
Not only is O Nata Lux
my favorite Christmas album for 2014, but it will also be on my list of Favorites for the year. You have to hear this one! It is available from timglemser.com
, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation!