BRITTEN A Ceremony of Carols. Saint Nicolas

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Vocal

Label: Signum

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 71

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: SIGCD649

SIGCD649. BRITTEN A Ceremony of Carols. Saint Nicolas

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
St Nicolas Benjamin Britten, Composer
BBC Concert Orchestra
Coldfall Primary School Choir
Crouch End Festival Chorus
David Temple, Conductor
Hannah Brine Choirs
Mark Le Brocq, Tenor
(A) Ceremony of Carols Benjamin Britten, Composer
Crouch End Festival Chorus
David Temple, Conductor
Sally Pryce, Harp

Conceived on board the MS Axel Johnson during Britten’s hazardous return voyage from North America to the UK in 1942, A Ceremony of Carols receives supremely enjoyable advocacy here. David Temple presides over a finely nuanced rendering of Britten’s captivating sequence, beautifully engineered in East Finchley’s All Saints’ Church, while harpist Sally Pryce reprises her role on Stephen Layton’s 2007 recording (Hyperion, 12/12) to exquisite effect. Thoroughly commendable as this newcomer is, though, I’m bound to say that the sopranos and altos of Layton’s exceptional Trinity College Chapel Choir have the edge over their north London rivals in terms of purity of intonation and unruffled composure.

Likewise, there’s formidable competition from Layton in the 1947-48 cantata Saint Nicolas. Temple directs with purposeful vigour, eliciting admirably spick and span, notably enthusiastic results from his choral and orchestral team (amateur and professional alike); Mark Le Brocq is an ardent exponent of the title-role. What’s more, there’s no disputing the infectious community spirit and festive splendour on display (commissioned to celebrate the centenary of Lancing College in Sussex, the work was actually premiered at the inaugural concert of the very first Aldeburgh Festival in June 1948). Excellent sound, too, emanating from Alexandra Palace’s refurbished Victorian Theatre. When push comes to shove, however, Layton has an ace up his sleeve in Allan Clayton (one of our most perceptive Britten interpreters, heard at his best in ‘Nicolas devotes himself to God’). And don’t forget, either, the composer’s own mono version (Decca, 7/55) featuring Peter Pears at the peak of his powers – a remarkable document that still conveys a unique sense of occasion and emotional charge across the decades.

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