When you listen to as much solo piano Christmas music as I do, it can be difficult to find a CD that is different enough to stand out from the others, but Matthew Mayer has succeeded well with sparkling arrangements of favorite traditional Christmas tunes that keep most of the melodies intact but are still different enough for jaded ears like mine to get excited about. One of the younger artists in the new age genre (currently 28), Mayer has already assembled an impressive body of work with much more on the horizon. If he is a new artist for you, be sure to check him out!
“Angels We Have Heard on High” begins the CD with a beautifully flowing arrangement that employs rubato (flexible timing) and a thoughtful approach to the meaning of the song. The second track is a joyful medley of “Joy to the World,” “O Christmas Tree,” and “The First Noel.” The left hand rhythm pattern stays about the same throughout the medley, demonstrating how well these pieces tie together. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is a classic song that adapts well to many different approaches. This one is dark, contemporary, and haunting - a favorite! It’s one of my favorite Christmas songs, anyway, so I love it when a new version stirs me up inside! “Jingle Bells” is light and playful. I love the subtle changes in the melody and rhythm. “Away In a Manger” is a sweet, simple, and innocent lullaby. “What Child Is This?” is another favorite. A bit more energetic than you usually hear it, Mayer maintains the haunting beauty of the melody and adds his original embellishments. “O Holy Night,” which is often given a rather heavy-handed treatment (that I used to prefer) is quiet and meditative. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas
” begins with a very classical - almost Bachian - prelude that evolves into a simple and sincere wish for a happy holiday. As the piece evolves, it becomes bigger and more energetic and then goes back to the simple, heartfelt wish. Appropriately enough, the CD concludes with “Auld Lang Syne,” again a simple, sincere wish and reminiscence.
is an outstanding Christmas album that should be a part of your holiday festivities, big and small. Enjoy! It is available from matthewmayer.com