Take a break and listen to these discs this holiday season
Christmastime is almost here, and with it come two lovely new discs to recommend for your seasonal play. German harpist Nicole Müller possesses an innate jauntiness in her style. Her work with jazz goddess Deborah Henson-Conant has only highlighted what comes so naturally and exemplified in her latest seasonal album In a Different Light. Firmly planted in the classical world, her elegantly nuanced arrangements seem to grow directly out of this fertile soil. Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” falls off into a toe-tapping “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” just at the moment we need the overly sweet sentimentality to receive a pinch of spice. She’s not afraid to push the strings, like in the sassy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” An original Fantasie introduces a suped-up “What Child Is This?” But it’s not all jazz. Just when you least expect it, Nicole introduces a nostalgic Irish “Morrison’s Jig,” one she had planned to play with bells on her feet, but then wisely asked for a spot of the Cajon, deftly added by Marco Liechti. Nicole at her most atmospheric is the mysterious “God Rest Ye,” her superb talent wrapped up as one perfect gift.
Intimate and angelic, Erin Hill’s Christmas Harp is a frothy mix of well-known yuletide tunes including a haunting “What Child Is This?” a persistent, yet always delicate “Carol of the Bells,” and a chorus of Erin’s in characteristic huskiness that feels a performance for you alone. A particular favorite was “Christmas Canon” based on Pachelbel, with added lyrics sounding like thoughtfully placed ornaments on the tree. Erin puts a smile into her voice in the saucy “White Christmas.” Does Debussy’s “Girl with the Flaxen Hair” belong on a Christmas album? You bet. •