Joan Sutherland Richard Bonynge Joy to the WorldJoan Sutherland

Joy to the World

New Philharmonia Orchestra

Richard Bonynge, conductor

Decca, 1964

Joan Sutherland’s Joy to the World was recorded in 1964, when she was at the height of her vocal splendour, and it is perhaps the most cheerful and sparkling album ever released for Christmas. The great Australian soprano, accompanied by the New Philharmonia Orchestra and her inseparable husband, Richard Bonynge, sings fourteen favourite Christmas songs and transforms them into an endless succession of trills and virtuoso feats that do justice to the joyful spirit of the celebration.

Joy to the World is one of those album that sets the atmosphere from the very first song and hardly change it after that. Every song has its peculiar character, of course, but youthful joy is a feeling that never leaves Sutherland and her silvery timbre is perfect to express the happiness that Joy to the World (the song), What child is this, O Divine Redeemer, The holly and the ivy and the other songs continually renew. Without being annoying or exaggerated, Sutherland’s pyrotechnical virtuosity exalts superbly the joy of Christmas time through these shining favourites and shares it with her listeners.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to choose the best song of this collection as they are all equally well performed by dazzling Sutherland, but among the most beautiful there are the bright, glorious title track Joy to the World; the delightful O Holy Night; the irresistible O Divine Redeemer, where Sutherland avoids exuberance for a while to make it ethereal; What child is this, which Sutherland sings with moving accents; and the exultancy of Adeste fideles, where she finally returns to the triumphant expression of glory.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is notable by its own right as Sutherland has the chance to show off her prodigious breath control that allows her to sing without effort this spectacular piece, while the celebrated Ave Maria appears as a moment of spiritual pause that it is necessary to sing with appropriate quietness. The last song of Joy to the World is Deck the hall, as if Sutherland has chosen to leave the best for last. Despite its rather fast tempo, our soprano is more than ever at ease among the embellishments and sonorous high notes that she performs with her usual, enviable easiness.

If you want to spend Christmas with some merry music, Joy to the World is absolutely an album that will not disappoint you.

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