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Jan Mulder's "Christmas"
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A 1992 graduate of Rotterdam and Utrecht Conservatories, Dutch-born pianist/composer/conductor Jan Mulder moved to Orlando, Florida, in 2007 to focus on large-venue performances. The thing is, he plays piano and conducts an orchestra at the same time. (Don't try that at home.) By 2011 Mulder and Orchestra were appearing regularly in national broadcasts on PBS television. Front and center in those programs, and in his major concerts, is his hand-built Italian Fazioli 308 grand piano—the largest, and among the most exclusive, concert grands on earth.

But to make the 18-track Christmas, Mulder had to travel to London, England, where housing his Fazioli and the London Symphony Orchestra required the use of a large room. Fortunately world-famous AIR Studios, founded in 1965 by Beatles producer Sir George Martin, had relocated to a large historic brownstone, designed and built in 1880 by Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse, and previously home to the Lyndhurst Road Congregational Church.

The result is a rich sonic treat—the recording feels like a live concert. Besides familiar carols like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away In A Manger” and “O Holy Night,” the composer offers three original instrumentals:  “Prince of Peace,” a gently lilting piano tune; “The Birthday of a King,” featuring a heartfelt violin solo from LSO leader Carmine Lauri; and “Mary's Lullaby,” interpreted softly by harp and alto flute. There is just one vocal track on the CD, but it's a standout: “A Choir Of A Thousand Angels” is sung by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli . . . who, despite singing in Rome, manages to feel right at home on this easy-listening London session. Christmas will fit in with any holiday playlist, never once taking you out of the spirit of the season.