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Karen Biehl – Silent Night

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“Silent Night” is, with good reason, many people’s favorite Christmas carol. It is even on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. Today Karen Biehl releases her version of this beloved Austrian carol, played with harp and violin. It is still only November, but if you want to get that Christmas atmosphere right away – Biehl’s heavenly harp and violin will take you there in less than three minutes. Believe me; it is time well spent. 

Karen Biehl has studied with former Metropolitan Opera star Thomas Hayward before completing her master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is also classically trained in piano and violin. For “Starlight Dreams”, released in November 2018, the readers and listeners here on Newagemusic.guide awarded Biehl the Best Solo Piano 2018 awardIn 2019 and 2020, Biehl has released several singles; “Portal to Peace, “As It Was, Ages Hence”,  “Echoing Canyon” ( I & II), “The Aftermath“, “Reflections” – to name a few. See the complete list on Spotify

Last week we saw the release of Biehl’s four different versions of “The Snow Lay on the Ground”. If you missed that, do check them out; they are wonderful!

Silent Night
“Silent Night” was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. There are, as you know, many ways to perform this brilliant piece – and when doing it instrumentally in a low-key way (without a full orchestra), many prefer harp and violin since these instruments give the song both a divine and gentle expression (the harp symbolizes the divine while the violin is life here on Earth).

The harp on Biehl’s “Silent Night” sounds warm, rich, and close. It is played in standard speed, laying the foundation for the violin. When it comes on, the harp is still center stage while the violin is a bit distant. I think that is wise, especially since the sound of the multi-layered violin is quite sharp and could easily overpower the elegant harp. The recording is done with Biehl’s usual attention to detail and love for classical music.

On many Christmas recordings, “Silent Night” is the album closer. Listening to Biehl’s version, we understand why; there is no way to follow-up after “Silent Night”, it sums up the Christmas spirit and is perfect in every way.

Many carols lived for centuries as instrumental pieces before getting lyrics, but since “Silent Night” is composed as a song, I’ll end this review with John Freeman Young’s English translation from 1887:

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!

The single is available on Amazon.

Source: Wikipedia entry on “Silent Night