This is an auspicious and welcome addition to recordings of Benjamin Britten's choral works. All his most well known and popular church music is here in a double platter of choral delights - Rejoice in the Lamb, A Ceremony of Carols, Te Deum and Jubilate in C, A Hymn to the Virgin, Missa Brevis in D, and Hymn to Saint Cecilia alongside less well known (to some!) but equally engaging and brilliant anthems such as Hymn to St. Peter, A Hymn of Saint Columba and Antiphon. Such a feast highlights Britten's exceptional skill at setting text in a manner which is utterly original and yet seems so right; simple ideas developed with unerring technique and dazzling invention.
A new recording of the glorious Wedding Anthem with its joyous peals of 'Ave Maria!' is most welcome. It is an extensive, although occasional piece requiring virtuoso Soprano and Tenor soloists, choir and organ - practically a mini cantata. Unaccompanied works in Britten's output are fewer in number than those for choir and organ, so the inclusion of Two Prayers from the early A.M.D.G. (1939) cycle seems apt. Personally I could have done without the rather slight, Whoso Dwelleth Under the Defence of the Most High and the uncharacteristically underdeveloped Venite (both posthumous publications) in favour of his brilliant setting of Deus in adjutorium meum (SATB unaccompanied) from the incidental music to Ronald Duncan's This Way to the Tomb (1945). I find it difficult to understand how the latter motet could be excluded from such a comprehensive survey of Britten's church music. That aside, all the performances are of exceptional beauty and vibrancy, and I feel sure Britten would have been delighted with the New College trebles' open throated, colourful tone, especially in the Ceremony of Carols and Missa Brevis where they set a new benchmark of excellence even in New College's recording history of these works. Edward Higginbottom and his New College Choir and organist will find few rivals in this year of Britten's 100th anniversary celebrations.Read more ›
Unfortunately both CDs downloaded as one, so instead of being tracks 1-18, followed by 1-15, it's 1.1., 2.2., 3.3... which splits up pieces with more than one track. But the music and performances are wonderful