1994 / Narada
Review by Kathy Parsons
David Lanz designed this album to be an antidote to the rush, commercialism, and madness that the holiday season can bring. As most of Lanz’s solo piano recordings are, this album is introspective and calming, and, with a couple of exceptions, most of the arrangements are rather somber. “Joy to the World” is a very big exception, as this is just about the most joyful version I’ve ever heard or played. (The companion songbook is the most popular Christmas book I use with my more advanced students, and this and several of the other songs are always played in my students’ Christmas recital!) “The First Noel / Christmas Eve Waltz” is a delight. The waltz is a Lanz original, and it weaves in and out of “The First Noel” seamlessly with a warm, cozy feel. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is my favorite piece on this album. Dark and mysterious, the piece is at once ancient and very contemporary. Lanz’s arrangements of “Silent Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” are also exceptional. I’m not crazy about the “angel” improvisations between most of the songs, although “Angel of Hope” is lovely. I was surprised to find that “O Holy Night”, to me the most passionate of all the Christmas carols, was presented in such a cool and distant manner. I was also disappointed in “What Child Is This” for the same reason.
I have to say that since I teach Christmas music from the end of October until the end of December, I am very picky about the Christmas music I listen to. The outstanding arrangements I mentioned make this CD worth buying. It is quiet and introspective for the most part, and Lanz succeeded well in his goal of creating an album of tranquil Christmas music. A few of the pieces are just a bit too tranquil for my ears.
December 12, 1994
Review by Michael Debbage