SAINT-SAENS: Christmas Oratorio;  RESPIGHI: Hymn of Praise for the Birth of the Lord – Mikaeli Chamber Choir/Anders Eby, Conductor/ Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo soprano, with vocal and instrumental soloists and members of the Royal Opera Orchestra – Proprius PRSACD 9057 – Multichannel  SACD, 58 min. *****:

Another classic Proprius recording reborn on multichannel SACD, and a wonderful addition to a joyful holiday celebration. Whether you’re religious or not, the music here is darn near irresistible. The performances (of the Christmas Oratorio) are quite reminiscent of the Bach cantatas; a look at Saint-Saens’ score confirms that with the notation “in the style of J.S. Bach.” The soloists – among them Anne Sofie von Otter – are superb, and the recording is sublime, sounding so fresh, almost as though it could have been recorded yesterday! No mean feat for source tapes that are twenty-five-plus years old!

The recording is an audiophile tour-de-force, and will offer an extreme challenge for every system. The delineation of soloists and massed voices is simply superb – one can easily visualize the position of the individual and grouped voices, and the combination of voices, instruments and organ will offer a very real test of your system’s resolving capabilities. I found the 4.0 surround mix more to my liking, but to be honest, the stereo SACD version is so superb in it’s preservation of the recorded acoustic and sense of ambiance, it’s almost a toss-up in terms of listening preference.

Excellent holiday listening, and wonderful throughout the year – very highly recommended!

— Tom Gibbs