2 CD SET OF BRITTEN'S CHORAL MUSIC NEWLY RECORDED FOR THE 2013 CENTENARY BY ONE OF BRITAIN'S GREAT CHOIRS.
Britten's sacred music is among the most engaging and original music of its kind composed in the middle years of the 20th century. New College Choir was among the first to recognise its quality, and continues to sing it with passion and panache. This newly recorded anthology is released by New College Choir to mark the centenary of Britten's birth. The 2 CD set offers an overarching view of his work in this domain, featuring favourites such as Rejoice in the Lamb and the Hymn to St Cecilia alongside settings more rarely heard, the Hymns to St Peter and of St Columba, and the wedding anthem Amo ergo sum. Overall, it offers a definitive panorama of Britten's sacred music from the 1930s to the 1960s in exemplary performances by one of the world's leading choirs.
How far Britten's religious music reflects his spirituality is open to question. A note in this excellent two-disc set is titled: "Britten: The Uncommitted Anglican". Whatever his belief, he wrote much for the liturgy from 1930 to 1962 and was good at it, often making ingenious use of treble voices. The Choir of New College, Oxford has a long association with this ever varied repertoire. They give fresh, confident readings steered with firm authority by director Edward Higginbottom of A Ceremony of Carols, Rejoice in the Lamb, Missa Brevis and shorter works. The Hymn to St Cecilia, to words of Auden, has particular joy and verve. --Observer, 24/02/13
The two outstanding features are the high quality of the choral singing and the fairly relaxed pace throughtout. --Gramophone, May'13