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Throughout Britten’s public career as the leading opera and song composer of his age there have appeared, from time to time, small-scale works composed for more intimate occasions – the wedding anniversary of friends, for instance, a BBC feature program, songs for children, a chorus for a prisoner-of-war choir and – for his own use – individual folk song arrangements as modest encores to a song recital. The specific occasions for which these pieces were written are of no more than documentary interest; their musical value, however, claims the attention of every admirer of Britten’s art, for the composer has always lavished his full powers on the smallest undertaking and brought distinction to the homeliest genre. Louis Halsey and the Elizabeth Singers recorded a number of these smaller-scale pieces in 1964. Two folk song settings O can ye sew cushions and The Salley Gardens were not included on the Argo LP, instead issued separately, the next year, on an EP, together with Old Abram Brown and Oliver Cromwell. All four settings are included on this disc. Completing this collection are the Hymn to the Virgin (an early work, composed in 1930 and revised four years later) and the Missa Brevis, written to mark the retirement of George Malcolm as organist and choirmaster of Westminster Cathedral. Although Britten himself recorded the work for Decca, this is a rare and much sought-after ‘live’ recording made during Mass at Westminster Cathedral in January 1960. It was issued on a 45rpm EP record.
Benjamin Britten: Five Flower Songs op.47
1. To Daffodils
2. The Succession of the Four Sweet Months
3. Marsh Flowers
4. The Evening Primrose
5. Ballad of Green Broom
Benjamin Britten: Two Two-Part Songs (1933)
1. I Lov'd a Lass
2. Lift Boy
Benjamin Britten: Chorale (after an old French carol)
Chorale (after an old French carol)
Benjamin Britten: A Shepherd's Carol
A Shepherd's Carol
Benjamin Britten: The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard
The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard
Benjamin Britten: Choral Dances from 'Gloriana'
Time and Concord
Rustics and Fishermen
Final Dance of Homage
Traditional: Old Abram Brown
Old Abram Brown
Traditional: Oliver Cromwell
O Can Ye Sew Cushions?
O Can Ye Sew Cushions?
Benjamin Britten: The Salley Gardens
The Salley Gardens
Benjamin Britten: A Hymn To The Virgin
A Hymn To The Virgin
Benjamin Britten: Missa brevis, Op.63 (1959)
Gloria in excelsis Deo
“First CD releases of classic accounts of Britten part songs from Louis Halsey's Elizabethan Singers, plus a searing live recording of the Missa Brevis from 1960”
“The pieces on this extremely enjoyable record roughly cover the first 20 years of Britten's maturity […]The Elizabethan Singers sing with lovely tone, splendid precision and unfailing comprehension. These are superb performances. Some of the quiet homophonic songs are splendidly done, for instance the haunting "Concord" in the Gloriana pieces, but the group is equally successful at conveying stress and excitement. The recording quality is outstandingly good. I do urge you to give this lovely record a trial.”
“The little work is full of Britten's brilliant technical invention and imaginative insight both in the vocal and the organ parts, and is a most valuable addition to the small repertoire of really worth-while contemporary liturgical settings of the Ordinary of the Mass. […]Performance and recording are very good”
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