on 18 April 2014
A classic recording of two essential works. Britten's epic recording project with Decca, which included almost all of his major compositions, is still the yardstick by which all subsequent recordings are measured. Britten was able in most cases to record his music with the musicians for whom he wrote it, and even when he didn't, he chose performers who were just right. His interpretations are still definitive, and I would say, still unbeaten by all subsequent recordings, some of which have been almost as good, but none of which have been bettered those by the composer himself.
St Nicolas is joy. This recording has Peter Pears (of course) in a role created for him, and a guest appearance by David Hemmings, who had created Miles in The Turn of the Screw, and featured in three recordings with Britten.
Rejoice in the Lamb is a miniature masterpiece, a glorious, wacky setting of gloriously wacky verses by Christopher Smart. I was drawn to this recording as it features the director of a boys' choir I was in. It sounds perhaps a bit 'old fashioned' in style, but it was what Britten wanted and it is a treasurable performance of a treasurable piece.