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Britten: Serenade for tenor, horn & strings
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.
“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 *****
“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 ***
“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
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Stephen Layton’s first disc of Lukaszewski’s choral works (CDA67639, The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge) was widely praised by listeners entranced by the composer’s unique yet accessible musical language. For this new release Layton and Polyphony, together with the Britten Sinfonia and a team of world-class soloists, have taken on a major work which is destined to become a modern classic in the vein of Taverner’s The Veil of the Temple or Pärt’s St John Passion. Via Crucis is a dramatization of the Stations of the Cross, a musical reading of this most solemn journey that evolves through its 55-minutes in an arc of culminatory ritual power.
“Thanks principally to Stephen Layton's advocacy, Pawel Lukaszewski's reputation is growing rapidly, and rightly so. All the performers evince an emotional commitment to the content as well as to accurate technical realisation of the music. The purity of sound achieved by Polyphony's sopranos and countertenor Iestyn Davies is notable, so too is Roger Allam's sonorous narration.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2009 *****
“This string of moments, by turns bright and oppressively dark, dramatic and reflective, receives a performance of the very deepest conviction by Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia under Stephen Layton, and the recorded sound is wonderful.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2009
“This devotional piece, which makes a noble addition to the music of Passiontide, could be seen as a reflection on Pawel Lukaszewski's native Poland and Catholicism's triumph over communism. Whatever its genesis, there is no denying the beauty of the choral writing and the sincerity of faith which lies behind it. Built around the Stations of the Cross, jewel-like recurring refrains, exquisitely sung by Polyphony, give the whole work a ritual power of startling originality.” The Observer, 5th April 2009
“Polyphony and The Britten Sinfonia’s performance of Lukaszewski’s Via Crucis sometimes achieves such a frightening intensity that, if you were to play it in a darkened room, alone, it would almost be too emotionally overwhelming...one can’t help but feel that this is a work due to receive a great many performances, and a recording to be used as a benchmark” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 8th April 2009
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Bairstow - Choral Music
“…Bairstow could hardly have finer advocates than David Hill's St John's Choir, beautiful in tone and balance… admirably clear in enunciation, well supported by rhythmic organ playing, and outstandingly well recorded. And the late cycle of Five Poems of the Spirit, given luxury casting with the superb Roderick Williams as solo baritone and the firm support of the Cambridge-based Britten Sinfonia, does give the disc life beyond the choir stalls.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ****
“An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. And to that should be added straight away the quality of recorded sound, for in choral music of this type it is particularly important to allow for enough reverberance and sense of space without loss of clarity; also to balance choir and organ so as to keep a focus upon the singers and their words while enabling the organist to exploit the full range of the instrument in tone and volume.
The recommendation for this new issue is confirmed most decisively by the inclusion of the FivePoems of the Spirit. Completed in 1944, it remained unpublished till after Bairstow's death.
The orchestration was provided by Sir Ernest Bullock, and with its baritone solos and (largely) early-17th-century texts it stands, not unworthily, alongside Vaughan Williams's Five MysticalSongs. Particularly memorable is the fourth, Raleigh's 'Give me my scallop-shell of quiet', but all are attractive. Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score. In the accompanied anthems and services the organ parts are played with skilful registration by Paul Provost, and the choir sing throughout with their customary expressiveness and variety of colour: exquisitely (for instance) in the unaccompanied Jesu, the very thought of Thee.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. …Five Poems of the Spirit… remained unpublished till after Bairstow's death. Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007
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Tõnu Kõrvits: Kreek's Notebook
Spiritual Songs from the Baltic States
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.
Scheduled for release on 1 July 2013. Order it now and we will deliver it as soon as it is available.
Eriks Ešenvalds: Passion & Resurrection
& other choral music
‘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 ****
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