Benjamin Britten ads to the tradition of English choral music with his inventive genius in these lovely pieces, sung so beautifully by the Choir of St. John's College in Cambridge, which consists of 16 choristers and 14 choral students, led since 1991 by Christopher Robinson, and with Iain Farrington on organ. The first work, "Rejoice in the Lamb" was commissioned in 1943, and uses the 18th century poems of Christopher Smart, who was considered insane in his lifetime. The words have a childlike wonder to them, and praise God's creation in everything from flowers to a mouse, who is "a creature of great personal valour"; my favorite is "I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey", and both text and music in this composition are enchanting. "Te Deum", from 1934, was according to the liner notes the first of Britten's works to be published. "Jubilate Deo" is a short piece from 1961, and "Antiphon" (1956), is one of my favorites, a conversation between men and angels. "Hymn to the Virgin" was composed in 1930, when Britten was only seventeen. "Festival Te Deum" ( 1944) is another terrific selection, melodic and powerful. "Missa Brevis" (1959), has some outstanding vocal work, and perhaps among all these pieces, shows Britten's creativity at its best, and would be my choice if I could only pick one work from this CD. It is followed by "Hymn to St. Peter" (1955), and "A Hymn of Saint Columba" (1962), and Britten's only piece for organ solo, "Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Vittoria" (1946). Fitting for Britten, who was born on St. Cecilia's day, the final piece is "Hymn to St. Cecilia". It was written during the early 40's, using the sad, reflective words of W.H. Auden, which are full of conflict, and the final resolution of "Translated daughter, come down and startle, Composing mortals with immortal fire". This CD is interesting for admirers of Britten, as it spans over three decades of his choral compositions, and the performance is splendid. Recorded in 1999 in St. John's College Chapel, the sound is excellent, and total time 73:48
This is an absolutely stunning recording of some fantastic pieces. Benjamin Britten has set some more obscure texts, for example Rejoice in the Lamb, which is the first recording on this CD. The text was written by someone who was in a mental assylum and this comes across quite clearly in Britten's very apt and involving music. Many choirs have performed at least one of these works and it is refreshing to hear them sung to such a high standard which just leaves you wanting more. Definitely worth buying, even just for Rejoice in the Lamb.
I can't recommend this disc too highly, I've had it for a few years now and still get enormous pleasure from both the music and the quality of the singing. A true celebration of Ben's work and of the English Choral tradition and all for a fiver!
Actually if you have not been there try and get to Aldbrough, you get a real incite into the man and the music and it's a truly lovely place (pop over to the Snape Maltings and you may get lucky and hear some of his music). No problem during the festival of course, but then you can't get the accommodation. Anyway buy this disc.