A gorgeous Christmas album!!!
“Christmas Remembered” is an outstanding collection of one original and fourteen traditional Christmas songs, lovingly arranged for solo piano and performed by Wayne Gratz. Usually by the week before Christmas, Christmas music is starting to drive me up the Christmas tree, but Gratz’s arrangements are so warm and cozy that I’ve found this album to be a total delight. All of the songs are of a spiritual nature, creating a mood that is reflective and peaceful. Wayne Gratz has been one of my favorite composer/pianists for a lot of years, but I think this CD and his other 2005 release, “Soul to Soul,” are some of his best work to date.
The CD opens with a buoyant version of “I Saw Three Ships.” Joyful and dancelike, it’s a great beginning! I like all of the tracks, but I’ll mention a few favorites. “We Three Kings” is rhythmic and includes some interesting improvisation. This beautiful piece can tend to be on the dark side, but Gratz keeps it upbeat and light. “Carol of the Bells” is one of my favorite Christmas songs, and this version is wonderful - flowing, elegant, and mysterious. “I Wonder As I Wander” is a carol that seems to be gaining in popularity. I love the minor key melody and Gratz’s elegant, heartfelt touch. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is another one of my favorite songs of the season, and goes back as far as the 12th century. Gratz brings it up-to-date with a flowing accompaniment to the graceful melody. “Silent Night” is peace set to music - very light, gentle, and deeply emotional in its simplicity. “What Child Is This?” is another ancient melody made new again - gorgeous! The title track is the original piece, and is spare and free, beautifully suggesting the wonder and awe of Christmas through a child’s eyes. Other titles include “The First Noel,” “Away In a Manger,” “O Holy Night,” and “Joy to the World.”
“Christmas Remembered” is one of the most beautiful Christmas albums I’ve heard in a long time. Highly recommended!