For Americans, the Twelve Days of Christmas means turtledoves, drummers drumming and five golden rings. But for Northern Europeans, that time between Christmas day and Epiphany (January 6) is when winter weather is often harshest. Yet it’s also a time of hope.

Raunächte collects twelve works that exemplify that spirit of hope “in the bleak midwinter.” If “The 12 Days of Chrismas” evokes bright, primary reds and greens, these compositions conjure up images in soft pastels. Even works such as John Rutter’s “Gabriel’s Message” and Edward Elgar’s “The Snow” seem more muted.

The LaCapella-Family is a group of five ensembles that present a varied program. The contemporary selections are especially strong. Ola Gjeilo’s “Tundra” depicts the windswept landscape with a hauntingly beautiful melody set against rustling strings and piano. “The Piece of Wild Things” by Joan Szymko for female choir and piano glistens like moonlight reflections on snow. I love it.

Also of note in this album of extraordinarily beautiful works is Franz Herzog’s luminous arrangement of “Es wird scho glei dumpa” for a capella choir. The album concludes with a joyful “Magnificat” by Agneta Skjöld.

If you’re looking for something different this holiday season, consider Raunächte. It’s seasonal music drawn in pastels. Yet it has an amazing variety of emotions and tonal colors.

Raunächte – The Twelve Nights after Christmas
Music by John Rutter, Ola Gjeilo, Joan Szymko, Wilhelm Nagel, Morten Vinther Sørensen, Cesar Bresgen, Edward Elgar, Gjendine Slålien, Felix Mendelssohn, Agneta Skjöld 
LaCapella
Rondeau Productions ROP6149