A well-known British magazine, in their December issue 2012, rated this Christmas Oratorio to be their second choice after Harnoncourt's most recent recording. Because I found Harnoncourt's recording very uninspired, I was curious to listen to their second choice. Another reason for buying this recording, is that I'm a supporter of the SACD format, because of its overwhelming sound quality. My reference recording is still Karl Münchinger's Christmas Oratorio from 1966 featuring Elly Ameling, Tom Krause and well-sounding boy's choir.
Of course, the present recording is much more "modern" than Münchinger (or even Harnoncourt), but the performance is of the highest quality. The tempos are brisk (the timing of the opening chorus "Jauchzet, frohlocket!" is here 6:29, compared to Münchinger's 8:14, and Münchingar is no dawdler). But somehow, Fasolis manages to bring this all together, without over-straining the tempi. The orchestra and the chorus are superlative, but it is mixed chorus that is used. It is a joy to hear them singing "Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen". The soloists are good too. Lynn Dawson is very "Ameling-sounding", but she doesn't completely reach Ameling's level. Bernhard Landauer is male alto. He sings with a girlish timbre, but I definitely prefer female altos. The important tenor / evangelist solis are sung by Charles Daniels. He is far better than the ageing Peter Pears (for Münchinger), but at times Daniels sounds a little unengaged. The bass Klaus Mertens has a lighter and more baritonish sound than Tom Krause, but is very good in his solis.
To sum up, this may be the best of all modern Christmas Oratorios. It is especially how Fasolis finds a way to refreshen this often-performed work, most often without mannerisms, that captures me. I imagine that this is the way Harnoncourt might have performed the piece today, had he been thirty years younger. Compared to Münchinger, but also to Harnoncourt (although he is on SACD as well), you get a clearer and more precise sound. This is definitely a "dark horse" among Christmas Oratorios. (But I won't sell my 1966 Münchinger!)