The new age piano man does it again in “Crystalline Christmas”! I thought I liked Richard Carr’s first holiday album quite a bit (“Christmas Fireside” is also reviewed on this site), but I actually prefer this one. Both albums present soothing, but scintillating, new age music appropriately structured to make the holidays sparkle. There is something about “Crystalline Christmas”, however, that is just more crystalline, for lack of a better word. The piano playing seems crisper, and the improvisational moments are more brightly etched. Carr’s piano playing makes magic; he also uses a keyboard for synthesized sounds on three tracks.
This album has 12 numbers, including two Carr originals: “Crystalline Christmas”, which brings to mind melting icicles and frosty windowpanes; and “The Gift”, a delicate and joyous homage to God’s greatest gift, performed with an almost childlike sense of wonder. The 10 traditional tracks date from the 15th to the 19th centuries, and they reveal a very strong musical selection, including some relatively unusual–and unusually lovely–carols such as “Gaudete!”, “Noel Nouvelet”, and “Lulajze Jezuniu” (a traditional Polish carol featuring keyboard-generated flutes and strings).
For those who enjoy the new age moods created by pianists David Lanz and George Winston, the improvisational work of Richard Carr will be a natural match. – Carol Swanson
I REALLY enjoyed Richard Carr’s first Christmas album, “Christmas Fireside,” and was looking forward to his second collection of seasonal standards and original pieces. I’m not sure why, but, for me, the newer album doesn’t have the same sparkle. It could be that I’m just tired of Christmas music at this point. Carr takes pride that his recordings are presented just as they were recorded – without edits or corrections – but I think even a little polishing would have made this a much better album. Carr performed several selections on a Kurzweil keyboard. This is the most effective on “O Come, Little Children,” a rather wistful carol from Germany. The medley of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Deck the Halls” isn’t quite as successful. It’s an interesting arrangement, and it sounds like Carr is having a great time playing it, but the bass line is too monotonous and the piece sounds a bit like a merry-go-round.
Meanwhile, back at the piano, “The Holly and the Ivy” is given a simple, direct treatment that is charming. “Silent Night” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” are paired in an interesting medley with a gently rolling left hand accompanying the familiar melodies. I really like that Carr has introduced several less-familiar songs of the season. “Gaudete! (Rejoice!)” is a 16th century Finnish song that is dark and somber with a feeling similar to “The Coventry Carol” – Carr does a really nice job on this one. “Noel Nouvelet” is also dark and mysterious, with a beautifully plaintive melody. Aside from a few questionable notes and a heavy pedal foot, this is a gem. The closing track, “Lulajze, Jezuniu (Lullaby, Baby Jesus)” is my favorite piece. A traditional Polish carol, I’d never heard it before. Performed on the Kurzweil with a breathy flute-like sound and sweet and gentle accompaniment, this piece embodies the peace and innocence of the true Christmas spirit. Although somewhat uneven, the good tracks are really good and a few are great. —Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com
Return to Crystalline Christmas album page.