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Britten: Sacred and Profane Import

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Audio CD, Import, December 11, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

This mid-priced reissue celebrates the 2013 centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth, offering a superb sampler of the composer's delightful choral music performed by Stephen Layton and his award-winning choir Polyphony. Featured on this Gramophone Award-winning recording is one of the last choral works Britten was to complete - Sacred and Profane - a collection of eight medieval lyrics for voices in five parts. Also included is the Chorale after an old French Carol based on texts by W H Auden (a close friend of Britten's). The work was meant to be part of a Christmas Oratorio on which Britten and Auden intended to collaborate. The seven settings of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins entitled A.M.D.G. were never performed in the composer's lifetime and indeed had to wait until 1984 for their first performance.

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Polyphony
  • Conductor: Stephen Layton
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (December 11, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Hyperion
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,085 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Ormerod on May 19, 2013
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Very high standard of singing.
Recommend this CD to choirs singing these works during this year's Britten centenary celebrations.
Our choir Ensemble Gombert has recently performed all but one work on the CD. The CD was particularly helpful in learning the more difficult works, notably Sacred and Profane.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 13, 2013
As a total amateur music lover, I think I can say that this disc -- well-performed and interesting as it is -- might not be for everyone. My sense is that it's most likely to be appreciated by people who know what it's like to sing in a choral group. These are, for the most part, very sophisticated settings of texts that themselves might not be sophisticated (though some are!) but which by virtue of the oddness conferred by antiquity don't speak very directly to modern readers. The more "modern" texts are by the difficult Jesuit poet Hopkins, who died in the 1890's, and by William Plomer, who wrote the oddly anachronistic texts for the "Gloriana" choral dances on this disc. The other texts are medieval or very early modern. Listening to the settings requires considerable concentration from ordinary mortals, but there is no doubt that a very keen musical intelligence, and a keen literary responsiveness, is at work here. There are some pretty remarkably inventive settings: "Country Girls" from the "Gloriana" dances will make you sit up, but play it in context to get the full effect. The settings that follow, "Rustics and Fishermen" and "Final Dance of Homage" are striking and accessible. Of the "Flower Songs," the "Ballad of Green Broom" is lively fun. The Hopkins settings are knotty, in keeping with much of the poetry, but the final one, "Heaven Haven" is lovely, catching the simplicity of the poem (not an obvious simplicity, I should add). Very remarkable, and accessible, is the setting of the "Hymn to the Virgin" -- remarkable because Britten composed it at 16 -- in which the Latin lines in the text are sung by a more recessed choral group from that which sings the English parts of the text -- striking and effective. Of only one setting -- the "Chorale based on an Old French Carol" -- might it be said that the text is more interesting than the setting, and that text is by Auden. If you like choral music, buy this -- if you don't . . . at least sample it.
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