Britten Sinfonia

Chamber Ensemble

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ConNotations

ConNotations


Berg:

Chamber Concerto for Piano and Violin with 13 Wind Instruments

Saint-Saëns:

Le carnaval des animaux

Shostakovich:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet & strings, Op. 35


Mei Yi Foo (piano), Ashley Wass (piano), Bartosz Woroch (violin) & Philipp Hutter (trumpet)

Britten Sinfonia, Clement Power

Mei Yi Foo explores boundaries between music & cryptography on ConNotations, searching for hidden meanings between the dots and messages woven between the lines

Malaysian pianist Mei Yi is highly regarded for her work. with fellow outstanding musicians, and is an acclaimed concert performer. She currently teaches at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and is the recipient of BBC Music Magazine’s Best Newcomer Award. Mei Yi’s profits from sales of ConNotations will be donated to the Marine Conservation Society in the UK and Malaysia, to support their efforts in securing a future for our living seas, and to save the threatened marine wildlife before it is lost forever.

“The trio of concertos – each of which features piano plus another solo instrument – forms a surprisingly satisfying programme, with lighter, exuberant Shostakovich and Saint-Saens framing Berg’s darker introversions.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 ****

“Its centrepiece comprises an uncommonly perceptive account – concentrated, witty and affectionate by turns – of Berg's meaty 1925 Chamber Concerto with its sly thematic references to his friends Schoenberg and Webern. Shostakovich's sardonic First Piano Concerto (with trumpeter Philipp Hutter a stylish co-soloist) also enjoys a splendidly alert and vivacious outing” Classical Ear, 30th March 2017

“The thread running through this disc, brainchild of pianist Mei Yi Foo, is that all three works are hiding something behind the notes. The idea promises more intrigue than it delivers, yet the pieces still add up to an enjoyable programme...With trumpeter Philipp Hutter and the pleasingly lean-sounding Britten Sinfonia, Foo makes light work of the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings.” The Guardian, 9th March 2017 ****

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Orchid Classics - ORC100065

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Macmillan: Stabat Mater

Macmillan: Stabat Mater


 

Stabat Mater (plainsong)

MacMillan:

Stabat Mater

world premiere recording


Read our exclusive interviews with James MacMillan and Harry Christophers about the project.

Includes the world premiere recording of James MacMillan's Stabat Mater.

Few living composers communicate with the emotional directness of Sir James MacMillan, and performances of his new Stabat Mater are eagerly anticipated. The Sixteen gave the world premiere of this work at a series of concerts in October 2016 as well as recording the work for their own record label, CORO. For MacMillan, 'beauty is at the heart of our Christian faith' and the Stabat Mater is sure to be profoundly shaped by his beliefs. But this is a work with deep roots and a universal message, a celebration of both tradition and radical renewal.

“his Stabat Mater is both moving and original in its word-setting and especially in its creation of atmosphere” classicalsource.com, February 2017 ****

“It’s a devastatingly powerful evocation of Mary’s agony, balancing impassioned choral writing with equally intense, occasionally violent, work for the strings of the Britten Sinfonia...Wonderfully sung; profoundly moving.” The Guardian, 12th March 2017 ****

“There is deference to the power of plainsong in the chanted opening, the timelessness of which feeds into the sublime harmonic journey of the ensuing movements. MacMillan’s unfolding of the text and its instrumental halo are masterfully judged. I defy any atheist not to be moved by such a profound musical interpretation of religious belief.” The Scotsman, 10th April 2017 *****

“…without doubt the work's impact is immeasurably heightened by the exceptional performance it receives here…Christopher's adoration of MacMillan's Stabat Mater radiates out of every moment of this compelling performance…the Britten Sinfonia have tremendously incisve rhythmic bite.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“This is an amazing high emotion choral masterpiece in MacMillan's distinctive style, incredibly difficult for the singers and the string orchestra. The recording was made October 31 / November 1, 2016 in London's St. Augustine's Church, and engineers have captured the rich sounds of the venue in proper perspective…An important issue!” Classical CD Review, April 2017

“Macmillan’s visceral approach to word-setting can generate genuine and immediate emotional involvement in his listeners…Warmly recommended.” Choir & Organ, May 2017 *****

“His vivid, trenchant string writing is realised with striking clarity by the Britten Sinfonia in this recording, made just a fortnight after the same performers gave the world premiere last October in London. The Sixteen’s singing is predictably high in quality. Cries, shouts, whispers, glissandos, episodes of ululating melisma, all feature…in [MacMillan’s] quest to render musically the visceral emotional content of the Stabat Mater” BBC Music Magazine, June 2017 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2017

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Coro - COR16150

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Vaughan Williams & James Macmillan: Oboe Concertos

Vaughan Williams & James Macmillan: Oboe Concertos


Britten:

Suite on English Folk Tunes 'A Time there was', Op. 90

Nicholas Daniel (cor anglais)

James MacMillan

MacMillan:

One for chamber orchestra

James MacMillan

Oboe Concerto

dedicated to Nicholas Daniel

Nicholas Daniel (oboe)

James MacMillan

Vaughan Williams:

Oboe Concerto in A minor

Nicholas Daniel (oboe & conductor)


Two major British oboe concertos featuring soloist Nicholas Daniel with the Britten Sinfonia. Composer James MacMillan conducts the world premiere recording of his own Concerto (dedicated to Nicholas Daniel), as well as his 2012 composition 'One' and the Britten 'Suite on English Folk Tunes: A Time There Was'. The oboist himself directs the Ralph Vaughan Williams concerto, the work with which he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition at the age of 18.

“He is arguably Britain’s most virtuosic and adventurous instrumentalist and as mesmerising a talent now, at 53, as he was when he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition 35 years ago...The oboe writing [in the Macmillan] is insanely demanding throughout; Daniel is stunning.” The Times, 11th April 2015 *****

“A fine showcase for Daniel’s mellifluous playing, the disc is still more than that, ending with a lovely account of Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes, and teasing one with a magical, five-minute piece by MacMillan...It is simply (complexly!) a monody passed round the players, glistening as it goes.” Sunday Times, 26th April 2015

“Oboists may feel ruefully that musical history owes them a showpiece. They have one now: MacMillan’s Oboe Concerto turns the soloist into a nimble-footed musical athlete, a star opera singer, a dazzling Highland dancer, all in the space of three varied movements. Nicholas Daniel makes the most of its virtuoso opportunities, raising the elegiac slow movement to intense heights.” Financial Times, 25th April 2015 ****

“Not only so his [Nick Daniels'] flawless discipline, liquid tone, exquisite chiaroscuro and seemingly superhuman breath control crush the ear, but he also encourages his colleagues to give their polished and raptly committed best ... Excellent sound and truthful balance throughout: this anthology merits a strong recommendation.” Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone Magazine, May 2015

“On this disc of delightfully summery music, the emphasis is initially on the pastoral: the airborne lyricism of Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto, its liquid lyricism shaped with velvet perfection by soloist Nicholas Daniel and the Britten Sinfonia … MacMillan’s own Oboe Concerto introduces a feistier mood, its nimble virtuosity playfully executed by the same soloist.” The Scotsman, 2nd May 2015

“This is a bravura display by Daniel, with lightly assured playing from the always-rewarding Britten Sinfonia.” The Observer, 24th May 2015 ****

“[a] strongly performed collection.” Irish Times, 27th May 2015

“[Daniel] tends to let the tempo slacken when the harmonic pulse slows down [on the Vaughan Williams]...it's hard to complain when that leaves more space for his consistently golden tone...MacMillan also conducts his One, a luminously scored monody.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2015 *****

Presto Discs of 2015

Finalist

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - May 2015

BBC Music Magazine

Concerto Choice - August 2015

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2016

Contemporary Winner

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Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Bach, J S: Goldberg Variations, BWV988

arr. D Sitkovetsky


The Britten Sinfonia’s Associate Leader, Thomas Gould directs the ensemble in Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s beautifully realised and heartfelt arrangement for strings of Bach’s great keyboard work, 'The Goldberg Variations'. Sitkovetsky’s arrangement (first conceived for string trio and later expanded for string orchestra), made in 1985 on the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, is lovingly and painstakingly done. He dedicates the string trio arrangement to Glenn Gould, and it is clear from much of the written-out ornamentation that Gould’s recordings of the Goldbergs were Sitkovetsky’s passport into the music.

The use of string instruments offers a range of expressive possibilities that a keyboard instrument does not, including the possibility of tuning notes expressively and colouring notes with vibrato but Sitkovetsky’s real triumph is to preserve the simplicity of texture and clarity of development that characterises Bach’s masterpiece, and as such is a true celebration of Bach’s vision.

Founded in 1992, the Britten Sinfonia is inspired by the ethos of Benjamin Britten through a deep commitment to bringing outstanding music to both the world’s finest concert halls but also the local community. One of the world’s most celebrated and pioneering ensembles it breaks the mould by not having a principal conductor or director, instead choosing to collaborate with a range of the finest international guest artists from across the musical spectrum, resulting in performances of rare insight and energy. Britten Sinfonia is an Associate Ensemble at the Barbican in London and has residencies across the east of England in Norwich, Brighton and Cambridge, where it is the University’s orchestra-in-association. The orchestra also performs a chamber music series at Wigmore Hall and appears regularly at major UK festivals including Aldeburgh and the BBC Proms. Their growing international profile includes regular touring including in February 2012, its North American debut at Lincoln Centre, New York.

“a patiently unfolding set of considered perspectives, taken to the edge in the delicacy of articulation and luminosity of counterpoint and by an inexhaustibly ambitious fleet-of-foot ensemble celebrating Bach's mesmerising au courant figurations...Stellar Bach-playing.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2015

“[Sitkovetsky's arrangement] opens up to the counterpoints within the music, as well as allowing the greater variation of colour and dynamics possible on strings...Led by Thomas Gould the Britten Sinfonia play with sinuous beauty and virtuosic clarity, with no clattering continuo instrument clogging the textures.” The Times, 21st March 2015 ****

“So bold are Glenn Gould's fingerprints on the score, not just in the intricate decorations but also the colours, the phrasing, the idiosyncratic articulation, that it is more an arrangement of his interpretation than it is an arrangement of the work itself...the Britten Sinfonia navigates the transcription with considerable panache.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2015 ****

“It is crisp, clear and buoyant with ornamentation deftly executed and rhythms kept on their toes. The playing recognises that this is not just a keyboard piece played on strings but also that Sitkovetsky idiomatically drew on the timbres and textures of strings to bring a new range of colour to the music.” The Telegraph, 12th April 2015 *****

“Without a weak moment in the entire work and in stunningly good SACD sound, this is a Goldberg Variations to acquire and hang onto for dear life, for it is indeed life-enhancing” MusicWeb International, April 2015

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - April 2015

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Music for Remembrance

Music for Remembrance


Duruflé:

Requiem, Op. 9

Roderick Williams (baritone), Christine Rice (mezzo-soprano)

Howells:

Take him, earth, for cherishing

Moore, P:

Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tavener:

The peace that surpasseth understanding

Vaughan Williams:

Lord, Thou has been our refuge


This latest album from Westminster Abbey is a programme of memorial music composed in England and France in the shadow of two World Wars.

The main feature is Duruflé’s Requiem, one of the best-loved of all works of the twentieth century, and given an astoundingly beautiful performance here, enhanced by distinguished soloists Christine Rice and Roderick Williams.

The Requiem is many ways a paradoxical work, based on plainsong but with Durufle’s sensuous harmonies suffusing every note with feeling: ‘This Requiem is not an ethereal work which sings of detachment from human concerns’, he said. ‘It reflects, in the unchanging form of Christian prayer, the anguish of man faced with the mystery of his final end.’ It is a work of unimpeachable integrity, a miraculous synthesis of the old and the new.

Throughout the past century the Abbey has been a focus of national remembrance on Armistice Day, and ‘O God, our help in ages past’—the ‘great ceremonial hymn of the English nation’, quoted in Vaughan Williams’ Lord, thou has been our refuge—has been a constant and reassuring presence, from the Burial Service of the Unknown Warrior on 11 November 1920 to the Service commemorating the Passing of the World War One Generation on 11 November 2009. The anthem by John Tavener recorded here was composed for that service, and all the other English music has some special significance in this place: a statue of Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands above the west door of Westminster Abbey (one of the ten twentieth-century Christian martyrs installed in the niches there in 1998), while the ashes of Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams are buried in the church where their music has contributed so much to daily services and great state occasions.

“The two soloists are excellent. Roderick Williams shows his usual sensitivity not just to the music but also to the text...The Westminster choir gives a fine account of the wonderful, eloquent Howells anthem... James O’Donnell’s excellent choir is on top form throughout this recital.” MusicWeb International, 7th November 2014

“Roderick Williams features widely in remembrance recordings this year...and here in Duruflé’s transcendent Requiem, his beautiful unforced baritone perfect for the mysterious Domine Jesu Christe, with the strings of the Britten Sinfonia adding an elegant sheen in the expansive acoustic of the abbey.” The Observer, 9th November 2014

“This is an exquisite performance of the Durufle Requiem...The playing of the Britten Sinfonia is superb, Robert Quinney's fluid, immensely colourful organ-playing a joy to behold and Roderick Williams a supremely compelling baritone soloist...O'Donnell moulds and shapes every moment with infinite care...as a beautiful listening experience it is in a class of its own.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

Hyperion - CDA68020

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Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge & Ten Blake Songs

Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge & Ten Blake Songs


Dove:

The End

Nicholas Daniel (cor anglais)

Britten Sinfonia (members), Jacqueline Shave

Vaughan Williams:

On Wenlock Edge

Britten Sinfonia (members), Huw Watkins (piano)

Ten Blake Songs

Nicholas Daniel (oboe)

Warlock:

The Curlew

Nicholas Daniel (cor anglais)

Britten Sinfonia (members), Jacqueline Shave


Mark Padmore (tenor)

Fresh from his triumph in the Glyndebourne 'Billy Budd', star tenor Mark Padmore is joined by members of Britten Sinfonia in 3 quintessentially British song-cycles: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 'On Wenlock Edge', with pianist Huw Watkins; 'Ten Blake Songs' with oboist Nicholas Daniel; and Peter Warlock’s best-known work, 'The Curlew'. 'The End' by Jonathan Dove (a co-commission by Britten Sinfonia and Wigmore Hall) receives its world première recording here.

British composer Jonathan Dove (b. 1959) made the following remarks on the genesis of his new work, 'The End' (2012), with support from the 'Tenner for a Tenor' campaign.

"When I heard Mark Strand read his poem ‘The End’ to a small gathering of artists in Italy a few years ago, I was moved – and also felt immediately that it was a poem that could be sung. I hoped that one day I might have the chance to set it to music. I did not know exactly what the music would sound like, but I imagined a solo voice with several instruments.

Britten Sinfonia gave me the opportunity to make this wish come true, by inviting me to write something for Mark Padmore to sing, with instrumentation to match Warlock’s 'The Curlew'. String quartet with two solo wind instruments seemed the perfect combination to suggest the gentle rocking motion of the ship slipping into darkness, and perhaps hear birds suspended in flight."

“This is a reflective, beautifully delivered recital of English song much concerned with death, its nature well suited to this tenor’s mellifluously lyrical, emotionally intense music-making.” Sunday Times, 29th September 2013

“This is an extremely fine disc. Mark Padmore’s singing is technically beyond reproach and his eloquence is telling in all four works on the programme. At every turn he finds superb partners in the members of Britten Sinfonia...this new release is one of the finest discs of English song to have come my way in a long time.” MusicWeb International, 1st November 2013

“Dove's musical nightscape shifts slowly and slightly...The same vocal simplicity and white timbre that chafes so tellingly at the smugness of Blake's Innocence poems (aided there by exquisite solo oboe) also works well here for Padmore, never blurring the clarity of the composer's melodic architecture.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2013

“Edge, rather than lyrical elegance, is Mark Padmore's expressive strength, combined with his superb diction...I've never heard [the Blake Songs] come across so convincingly...Lavish praise too for the wonderful playing of the Britten Sinfonia...I shall be coming back to this.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2013 ****

“Many of Blake’s finest, most condensed verse utterances are here, Innocence and Experience nestling side by side: darkness is ever-present, as we move for instance from the Sunflower- and then to the comforting ‘Divine Image’. Ten Blake Songs is a bleak masterpiece and Padmore and Daniel are exceptional… This fine release earns plaudits on every front” International Record Review, November 2013

GGramophone Awards 2014

Finalist - Solo Vocal

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Tõnu Kõrvits: Kreek's Notebook

Tõnu Kõrvits: Kreek's Notebook

Spiritual Songs from the Baltic States


Kõrvits:

Kreegi vihik 'Kreek's Notebook'

Britten Sinfonia

The night is darkening round me

Kate Telfer (soprano)

Maskats:

Lacrimosa for choir, strings and organ

William Mason (organ)

Britten Sinfonia

Lugums naktij 'Prayer to the night'

Plakidis:

In memoriam

Fatamorgana 'Mirage'


Royal Holloway Choir, Rupert Gough

The Choir of Royal Holloway have proved themselves as inspirational performers of contemporary Baltic music through their previous recordings.

The main work on this fascinating album is based on Estonian folk hymns, an unusual variant of folk melodies, collected in the early twentieth century for the first time by Cyrillus Kreek, who was the Estonian equivalent of Bartók or Grainger. Most of these religious folk songs were originally eighteenth-century Lutheran hymns which have been passed across generations and embellished with elements of secular folk-singing. During the Soviet regime, the singing of these religious songs was forbidden and this cultural genre was all but forgotten. By the end of the twentieth century fresh light could be shone on these folk collections, and Tõnu Kõrvits (born 1969) was particularly struck by the fresh possibilities and newly discovered meanings of folk hymns. In writing Kreek’s Notebook Kõrvits pays homage to Cyrillus Kreek while presenting a contemporary view of folk hymns. Although there is a dramatic unity to this eight-movement work, there is much diversity in timbre and scoring. The effect is improvisatory in the creative ornamentation of the vocal lines, and suffused with dreamy textures that bring to mind the great tradition of Eastern European choral writing.

“This disc proclaims the excellence of British choral singing and the remarkable quality of contemporary choral music from the Baltic countries.” International Record Review, June 2013

“This is a programme packed with interesting music. Yet again Hyperion’s enterprise in issuing a disc like this shows us what fine choral music is to be heard in the Baltic States. The performances are out of the top drawer. The quality of the singing is consistently excellent” MusicWeb International, 17th September 2013

“Their championship of the music of the Baltic countries is a true feather in their cap, as this proves once again...Performances and recording are outstanding.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2013

“More from the ever-renewing, never emptying, storehouse of Baltic song...this Baltic compilation is given gently sympathetic performances by the student singers of Royal Holloway College and the Britten Sinfonia under Rupert Gough.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2013 ****

Hyperion - CDA67968

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Britten: Serenade for tenor, horn & strings

Britten: Serenade for tenor, horn & strings


Britten:

Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Op. 31

Stephen Bell (horn)

Nocturne, Op. 60 for tenor, obbligato instruments and strings

Finzi:

Dies natalis, Op. 8


Mark Padmore (tenor)

Britten Sinfonia, Jacqueline Shave (director)

Celebrated tenor Mark Padmore joins the Britten Sinfonia in some of the most beautiful English music for voice and orchestra. The centrepiece is Britten's magical evocation of twilight and nightfall, the 'Serenade' (with Stephen Bell, horn). In Gerald Finzi's war-time cycle 'Dies natalis', the ecstatic mood reflects a child's wide-eyed wonder at the world. Britten's poignant 'Nocturne' completes the programme.

“Padmore proves to be a more convincing interpreter of Finzi than he is of Britten...there remains something rather neutral and restrained about his approach at moments when the music would really benefit from a firmer grip. In Dies Natalis, though, he shows that grip – it's a wonderfully muscular performance, beautifully judged and shaded, set off by suitably rapturous string playing.” The Guardian, 3rd May 2012 ***

“so tender and piercing that you really do seem to be listening to these song cycles anew...Padmore’s tenor audibly sports some family resemblances [to Pears], though he’s less precious than Pears, with a conversational ease when singing pianissimo never mastered by Britten’s love and muse. These are intensely sensitive and poetic readings, strengthened further by Stephen Bell’s clean and lyrical horn” The Times, 4th May 2012 *****

“It was high time Mark Padmore, one of our most thoughtful tenors, set down his interpretation of the “Serenade” – softer-grained than we might have expected from a singer of such probing spirit and dramatic antennae, and softer-edged than the orchestral accompaniment from the Britten Sinfonia, whose horn player, Stephen Bell, proves a robust soloist.” Financial Times, 12th May 2012 ***

“the sense of the poems across with extra immediacy, as if Padmore has read the texts many times over before fitting them to the music. There is much beauty - not perhaps in the purely vocal sense...but in the marriage of words and music...Highly recommended.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012

“[Padmore's] not found wanting in the “Nocturne for tenor, seven obbligato instruments & strings”, in which he ably negotiates Shelley's reverie, Wordsworth's melodrama and Tennyson's “thunders of the upper deep”; the “Serenade for tenor, horn & strings” is equally impressive...“Dies Natalis”, however, offers too stark a contrast to the otherwise elegaic tone.” The Independent, 19th May 2012

“The performance of Nocturne is the highpoint: a wide-eyed, variegated account from singer, obbligato instrumentalists and orchestra alike.” classicalsource.com

“Apart from the sheer beauty of his timbre, Padmore and his sympathetic accompanists have the full measure of Britten’s genius, and the readings are unlikely to be bettered for years to come.” Cd Choice

“Padmore's singing is very loving indeed, but in places I can't help feeling that it's a case of 'less is more'. The Britten Sinfonia and instrumental soloists are admirably attuned to Padmore's approach...Padmore is more successful in the exquisite Dies Natalis, where a more extrovert approach really pays off.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2012 ***/****

“Deeply intense, questing performance of two of Britten's great orchestral song-cycles, matched by the players with whom Padmore has rehearsed, workshopped and toured these works extensively. The Finzi is much more than just a filler...this is the masterly performance is deserves.” Classical Music, 5th May 2012 ****

“Padmore’s new recording is terrific - his voice is expressive, beautiful and terrifying by turns...Bell’s performance is spectacular...Padmore sings with such sweetness that you’ll convince yourself that Finzi was an underrated genius.” The Arts Desk, 16th June 2012

“Peerless tenor extends the Peter Pears legacy into a new century.” New Zealand Herald, August 2012

“He sings with less of the honeyed beauty that he is famous for and more incisive bite, which works for some songs, such as the Dirge, but not so well for others, such as the opening Pastoral. However, this does have the advantage of lending his word-painting that extra edge...Both playing and singing are at their most alluring in the concluding Keats Sonnet, seductive and beautiful with a hint of danger, leading wonderfully into the softly dying horn epilogue.” MusicWeb International, August 2012

“Mark Padmore brings a sense of excitement, but also of serenity, to the music, accompanied by the Britten Sinfonia.” David Smith, Presto Classical, October 2014

GGramophone Awards 2012

Finalist - Solo Vocal

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Eriks Ešenvalds: Passion & Resurrection

Eriks Ešenvalds: Passion & Resurrection

& other choral music


Ešenvalds:

Passion and Resurrection

Evening

Night Prayer: Mistress of night watching down on me

A Drop in the Ocean

Legend of the walled-in woman: Atje te ura në lumë 'There at the bridge o'er the river'

Long Road: I love you night and day


‘Rarely before have I sat in a concert hall and heard a new work that sounded so fresh yet so familiar … Ešenvalds Passion and Resurrection is surely set to become a classic, a position Hyperion’s forthcoming CD release of the work should consolidate’ (On an Overgrown Path).

The live performance last year of this major and substantial work by the young Latvian composer Ešenvalds thrilled critics and audiences alike. As a new liturgical work that looks set to enter the repertoire it is comparable to Arvo Pärt’s Passio.

Eschewing the single narrative perspective that characterizes the great Passion settings of the past, the composer has assembled an interlocking mosaic of texts from the gospels, from Byzantine and Roman liturgies, and from the Old Testament.

Stephen Layton’s commitment to new Baltic music is well-known and he has a deep understanding of the musical language of the area – reflected by performances of great integrity and passion. This recording is particularly splendid, featuring not only the matchless Polyphony and Britten Sinfonia but also Carolyn Sampson, acclaimed for her performances of early music on Hyperion but heard here to dazzling effect, crowning the performance with her extraordinary singing.

“Within seconds I knew I was going to adore this disc...everything here has in common a wonderful sincerity of expression and a shimmering sense of colour...If the music wasn't so utterly gorgeous, I would happily devote several hundred words to praising Stephen Layton for these totally absorbing performances.” International Record Review, March 2011

“The star is soprano Carolyn Sampson, whose rich timbre and effortless ascents into the stratosphere crown this splendid performance.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2011

“Ešenvalds responds to the purpose of the words he sets, occupying similar choral territory to the likes of Whitacre and Shchedrin, character rather than ego dominating. Carolyn Sampson is the featured guest on the title piece and sings superbly, but there is also very fine work by soloists from within Polyphony, particularly the sopranos...Polyphony typically balances beauty of timbre with precise articulation and empathy with the texts” BBC Music Magazine, May 2011 ****

Hyperion - CDA67796

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


Allan Clayton (tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (bass), Iestyn Davies (countertenor) & Julia Doyle (soprano)

Polyphony & Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton

2CDs for the price of 1

‘No-one, but no-one performs Messiah better every year than the choir Polyphony under the conductor Stephen Layton’ (Evening Standard)

Polyphony and Stephen Layton’s live Messiah at St John’s Smith Square has become one of the highlights of the musical season. The joyful sincerity and urgent brilliance of the performers has brought the familiar story to life again and again. Now this wonderful experience is available on disc, recorded in 2008 for a new release that will surely prove a strong competitor in a necessarily crowded market. Polyphony is joined by the Britten Sinfonia and a quartet of magnificent young soloists – all variously acclaimed as the premier Handel singers of the new generation.

“…underpinned by the incisive modern instruments of Britten Sinfonia, the new release has both a fine sense of style and is full of refreshing insights… Tempos - after a slightly low-key start - are well judged, and the choir, the odd momentary hint of strain aside, sings with an effortless control and well-modulated fluency that takes wing when gutsiness is added to the mix.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2009

“…there is plenty of music-making here that has the lightness, textures and vocabulary of period style, but there is also the spiritual grandeur (and interventionist treatment of the score) of the great Northern choral society tradition. Julia Doyle is a charismatic Angel/narrator... and her embellishment recapitulation of the line "I know that my Redeemer liveth" is spine-tingling. Andrew Foster-Williams's singing is marvellous... Iestyn Davies's... ornamentation in "But who may abide" is masterful for its stylish vocabulary and expressive wisdom... Layton's affection for the oratorio is frequently discernible, not least in the technical and communicative qualities of Polyphony's exceptional singing of the choruses.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009

“The 16 strings of Britten Sinfonia make the most of Handel’s wonderfully varied accompaniments (their Why do the nations is hair-raising), the 31-strong Polyphony are excellent... and Layton’s direction is vivid and masterly.” Sunday Times, 20th December 2009 ****

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Hyperion - CDA67800

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