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Britten: A Ceremony of Carols Original recording reissued

5 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, March 23, 2004
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Product Details

  • Performer: Choir of King's College Cambridge, James Bowman, Osian Ellis, Ian Hare, James Lancelot, et al.
  • Conductor: David Willcocks, Philip Ledger
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (March 23, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording reissued
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B0001HAHHS
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,013 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Way back in the dark ages, before CDs roamed the earth, I purchased the LP of this recording. It remains my favorite performance of Britten's work. The voices of the choir, accompanied by one harp, weave an achingly beautiful tapestry of sound. It is a wonderful way to introduce children and friends to the English choral tradition of sacred music.
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Format: Audio CD
Captivating from start to finish: EMI has programmed & remastered this bounty of Britten choral work superbly. The Choir of King's College, Cambridge performs with stunning sensitivity, ethereal, heartbreaking & transcendent. A just classic disc
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Format: Audio CD
The works of Benjamin Britten on this recording were originally recorded in 1972 and 1974 and have been transferred from vinyl to CD, remastered in 1987, and still remain as fine as any recordings subsequent to these mysteriously beautiful works. In particular the 'Ceremony of Carols' for treble voices and harp recorded in King's College allows the procession and recession to 'feel' like an entry and exit - very atmospheric. The harpist for this recording is the famous Welsh harpist Osian Ellis and gives his role a more important sound than other harpists on other recordings.

The other works on this recording include the joyous 'Hymn to St. Cecilia' for unaccompanied chorus, the festival cantata 'Rejoice in the Lamb' which happens to include among the soloists the now famous James Bowman, countertenor!, the 'Te Deum in C' and 'Jubilate Deo' both with organist James Lancelot and the far too rarely heard 'Missa Brevis in D'. The choir is up to its usual high standards as are the two conductors Sir David Willocks (Ceremony of Carols, Hymn to St Cecelia, Missa Brevis) and Philip Ledger (Te Deum, Jubilate Deo and Rejoice in the Lamb). The acoustics of the chapel add greatly to the joy of this very special recording. Grady Harp, December 10
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Format: Audio CD
TWO KING'S COLLEGE CONDUCTORS PERFORM BRITTEN: Willcocks 1972 & Ledger 1974.

"A Ceremony of Carols" for treble voices and harp consists of nine carols of medieval origin preceded by a Processional ending with a Recessional. The performance of this work by Willcocks is totally excellent; the diction is clear and precise while the quality of the boy sopranos is crystalline. Unlike the later 1990 Cleobury recording in which the vocal quality was not 'up to par' and the diction somewhat 'muddy'. In addition, Cleobury's soprano soloist was ill-chosen for his tone was breathy to the point of annoyance.

"Hymn to St. Cecilia" very well might have been composed by Britten because he was born on St. Cecilia's day, so he wanted to write something for himself. Written in 1942, it is a setting of a W.H. Auden poem, the music reflecting the restrained intensity of the words. Quite an interesting work and well produced by Willcocks.

"Rejoice in the Lamb"(Festival Cantata) sets excerpts from an extended poem by the 18th century poet, Christopher Smart. Britten sets ten short sections, all dedicated to the glory of God. The cantata is scored for four soloists, four-part chorus, organ and (in this version) percussion. Here again Ledger's choir far surpasses Cleobury's 1990 disc.

"Te Deum & Jubilate Deo in C". The 'Te Deum' dates from 1935 and is written for treble solo, four-part choir and organ. the 'Jubilate', although composed much later, in 1961, is also in C, and forms a convenient comparison work. In these two compositions Britten eschews any banal display of contrapuntal writing so characteristic a trademark of countless shorter settings. Ledger's choir performed these wonderfully well, and I loved both of them!
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