2023 / Sony Music Masterworks
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cello phenomenon Hauser has released his first-ever holiday album, simply titled Christmas. Having watched dozens of Hauser's videos as both a soloist and as half of 2Cellos, I didn't know whether to expect an album of innovative and widely varied arrangements of Christmas carols and songs (thinking of Mannheim Steamroller) or one on the more classical side. It turns out that Hauser's intention was for all of the songs to sound very classical - and they do. He is accompanied by a full orchestra and choirs on most of the fourteen tracks, all of which are gorgeous. The arrangements are warmly elegant and very much on the traditional side. Quoting Hauser:
"Instrumental music is something everyone, everywhere can understand equally....People can enjoy it in the background, even if they're not focused on listening. It's perfect for opening presents, preparing dinner, decorating the tree, whatever....I wanted everything to sound like classical music. Even those pop songs now sound so gorgeous in this instrumentation, with a huge orchestra. They really sound like classical masterpieces. I think people will be surprised to hear their favorite Christmas song in this romantic, 'Hollywood' style. I really wanted to recreate that....I wanted this to be the ultimate Christmas album."
For those who enjoy the visuals, Hauser has also released a video of four of the tracks called "Christmas, Part 1" that includes "O Holy Night," "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire)," "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard On High." This is the first installment for what will be a forty-minute film of Hauser performing the songs from the album. He has also released a video of "Amazing Grace," the first single from the album. The videos were filmed at various locations in Hauser's native Croatia and are beautifully done. Plus he's so much fun to watch!
My own favorite tracks from the album include "Carol of the Bells," a piece that can adapt well to a variety of styles without losing its drama or beauty, and Hauser puts his heart and soul into it. His cello's voice is especially poignant on "O Holy Night," which has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. "Laudate Dominum" is a classical piece by Mozart and is a really nice addition to the album as it isn't as frequently heard as some of the other songs. I also really like Hauser's arrangement of "Amazing Grace" as a closing track - very peaceful as well as soulful.
Christmas is sure to add some sparkle to everyone's Christmas season as is very widely available to stream or download. The CD includes a Hauser Christmas ornament and a video message from the artist.
November 11, 2023