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Track(s) taken from CDH55438

A Hymn to the Virgin

First line:
Of one that is so fair and bright
9 July 1930
author of text

Polyphony, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Recording details: April 2000
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: March 2001
Total duration: 3 minutes 20 seconds

Cover artwork: Sacred and Profane Love (c1515) by Titian (c1488-1576)
Galleria Borghese, Rome / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Westminster Cathedral Choir, David Hill (conductor)
Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge, Mark Williams (conductor)
The Rodolfus Choir, Ralph Allwood (conductor)


'The programme is delightful and the choir excellent … this has to be one of the strongest winners of the choral award in recent years' (Gramophone)

'Polyphony's brand of singing, clean as a whistle, rhythmically wonderfully alive, impeccably tuned and voiced, polished yet always fervent, is justly renowned, and on this disc it serves Britten's a capella choral music extremely well' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Musically impeccable, carefully wound and tuned, superbly balanced—a magnificent display of sheer beauty of choral sound' (American Record Guide)

'After hearing their latest CD of choral works by Britten, nothing will dissuade me from the conclusion that Polyphony under Stephen Layton is the best chamber choir in the country' (The Evening Standard)

'A valued possession … highly recommended' (Cathedral Music)

'Polyphony's exceptional energy, technical prowess and expressive flexibility make the most of every word and mood throughout this hour-long programme. This engrossing anthology of words and music comes highly recommended' (The Age, Melbourne)
Britten wrote a considerable quantity of music during his school years, much of it ambitious and demonstrating a striking stylistic eclecticism. Much simpler in its understated poignancy is his well-known A Hymn to the Virgin, for double choir, composed on 9 July 1930 during an enforced spell in the sick-bay at Gresham’s School, Holt, when Britten was only sixteen years old. (This was his final year at school, and two months later he entered the Royal College of Music to study composition and piano.) In 1934 he deemed the piece worthy of publication but transposed the music down a semitone to make it more comfortable to sing and amended some of the harmonic progressions.

from notes by Mervyn Cooke © 2001

Durant ses années d’écolier, Britten écrivit une quantité considérable de musique dont une bonne part s’illustre par sa nature ambitieuse et son éclectisme stylistique saisissant. D’une plus grande simplicité dans la retenue de ses émotions, le célèbre A Hymn to the Virgin pour double chœur vit le jour le 9 juillet 1930, alors que Britten, âgé de seize ans seulement, faisait un séjour forcé à l’infirmerie de Gresham’s School, un pensionnat de Holt, une ville côtière du Norfolk. (Ce devait être sa dernière année de scolarité générale puisque deux mois plus tard, il entrait au Royal College of Music de Londres pour étudier la composition et le piano.) En 1934, il jugea la pièce digne d’être publiée, mais la transposa au demi-ton inférieur pour en faciliter l’exécution vocale et amenda quelques marches harmoniques.

extrait des notes rédigées par Mervyn Cooke © 2001
Français: Isabelle Battioni

Britten hat schon während seiner Ausbildung eine beachtliche Menge Musik geschrieben, darunter vieles, was ehrgeizig und in auffällig eklektischem Stil gehalten war. Wesentlich schlichter in seiner bescheidenen Eindringlichkeit ist seine bekannte A Hymn to the Virgin für Doppelchor, komponiert am 9. Juli 1930 während eines Zwangsaufenthalts im Krankenzimmer der Musikschule Gresham’s School in Holt. Britten war damals erst sechzehn Jahre alt. (Es war sein letztes Schuljahr; zwei Monate später begann er am Royal College of Music Komposition und Klavier zu studieren.) Im Jahr 1934 befand er das Stück der Veröffentlichung wert, transponierte es jedoch vorher einen Halbton abwärts, so daß es bequemer zu singen war, und berichtigte einige der harmonischen Fortschreitungen.

aus dem Begleittext von Mervyn Cooke © 2001
Deutsch: Anne Steeb/Bernd Müller

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