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Track(s) taken from CDA67768

The Three Kings

First line:
O balow, balow la lay. The first king was very young
commissioned by King's College, Cambridge, for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, Christmas Eve 2000
author of text
The Three Kings

Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens (conductor)
Recording details: June 2009
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: September 2010
Total duration: 4 minutes 54 seconds

Cover artwork: Seated Angels with Orbs in their Hands (c1348-1354) by Ridolfo di Arpo Guariento (c1310-c1370)
Museo Civico, Padua, Italy / Alinari / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor), Benedict Kearns (treble), Cameron Roberts (treble)
Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choristers, Gabrieli Consort, Paul McCreesh (conductor)
The Choir of the Chapel Royal, Huw Williams (conductor), Harry Fetherstonhaugh (treble), Michael Clayton-Jolly (treble)


'Dove's fresh, diatonic idiom is coupled to a matchless sense of word-setting … he writes most gratefully for the voice, with the intensity of Kenneth Leighton, the bravura of Britten and the timeless ecstasy of Tavener … the Wells choristers tackle everything with aplomb, élan and evident enjoyment' (Gramophone)

'Matthew Owens has clearly prepared the choir with scrupulous sensitivity, and conducts with an incisive freshness … Dove's music is splendidly effective and brightly expressive' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Wells is currently enjoying a superb top line, rewardingly displayed in this collection of Jonathan Dove's radiant choral works, including a first recording of his sparkling Missa Brevis' (The Observer)

'Wells must currently stand as England's finest cathedral choir, and its legacy of promoting contemporary church music will remain long after every treble voice here has become a baritone, tenor or bass … as it stands today, that top line has unfailing precision of pitch and unaffected beauty of tone, while the men possess the flexibility and collective musicianship to underlay that top line with impeccable textural clarity and satisfying tonal depth … few will not respond to the sparkling and angelic 'Wellcome, all wonders in one sight!' … while 'Run, shepherds, run!' … adds a moment of high drama, reminding us vividly of Dove's operatic credentials … this disc offers some moments of pure magic and many truly uplifting experiences' (International Record Review)

'Into thy hands, using as texts two 12th-century prayers, offers evidence that modern religious choral music need not descend into wince-inducing happy-clappy idiocy. Dove charms and beguiles us, and the performances by the Wells Cathedral Choir under Matthew Owens are faultless. There’s also the recording quality, with the cathedral acoustic offering just enough reverberance to give the voices a heavenly glow' (TheArtsDesk.com)
Jonathan Dove’s The Three Kings, a setting of Dorothy L Sayers, was commissioned for the 2000 Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Sayers’s division of the kings into three ages, with a stanza each—young, middle and old respectively—gives the piece its structure; the melancholic mood is immediately established by the beautifully simple lullaby refrain. Dove achieves a magical transformation at the start of the third stanza, by unexpectedly switching to the major mode. He then expands the scoring at ‘many a gaud and glittering toy’, the inner voices providing a sparkling pointillistic accompaniment to the slower-moving melody. An ecstatic climax is reached; but this subsides into a wistful repeat of the opening refrain, leaving a question-mark hanging over the scene.

from notes by Robert Quinney © 2008

Le chœur de King’s College, Cambridge commanda The Three Kings en 2000, pour l’édition annuelle de son Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Le choix de Dove se porta sur «The Three Kings», un fascinant poème de Dorothy L. Sayers, de style quasi médiéval et avec pour refrain «O balow, balow la lay / Gift for a baby King, O». Sayers portraiture ses trois rois aux trois âges de l’homme—la jeunesse, la fleur de l’âge et la grande vieillesse. Et c’est avec un tour peut-être inattendu qu’elle se démarque de l’imagerie populaire pour nous montrer le jeune roi dolent, qui apporte la myrrhe; le roi dans la fleur de l’âge est un prêtre solennel qui apporte l’encens, «triste et doux», et c’est le très vieux roi qui apporte les poignées d’or—non pas de l’argent mais des petits bijoux, des colifichets et des jouets scintillants pour un nouveau-né. Dove traduit simplement ces trois personnalités. Le premier roi est dévolu à deux trebles solo accompagnés par le chœur qui chante le refrain. Pour le roi suivant, le tempo s’accélère un peu mais les voix supérieures interprètent encore le texte descriptif pendant que le chœur exécute le refrain, en accompagnement. Le dernier roi est introduit mystérieusement mais, au débotté, Dove précipite la musique dans un énergique scherzo pour décrire les colifichets dorés et l’excitation de l’enfant qui les reçoit. La pièce s’achève dans une paisible réflexion.

extrait des notes rédigées par Paul Spicer © 2010
Français: Hypérion

The Three Kings wurde vom Chor des King’s College in Cambridge für das alljährliche „Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols“ des Jahres 2000 in Auftrag gegeben. Als Text wählte Dove ein faszinierendes Gedicht von Dorothy L. Sayers mit dem Titel „The Three Kings“, das in mittelalterlichem Stil gehalten ist: „O balow, balow la lay, / Gifts for a baby King, O“ refrain. Sayers stellt die drei Könige in den drei menschlichen Lebensaltern dar: in der Jugend, auf der Höhe des Lebens und im Greisenalter. Mit einem vielleicht unerwarteten Dreh und in Abkehr von gewohnter Bildlichkeit stellt Sayers den jungen König als melancholisch und Myrrhe bringend vor; der König auf der Höhe des Lebens ist ein feierlicher Priester mit Weihrauchgaben traurig und süß; und der greisenhafte König bringt Hände voll Gold, die aber kein Geld, sondern Tand, Glitzerwerk und Spielzeug für einen Neugeborenen sind. Dove spiegelt einfach diese unterschiedlichen Charaktere wider. Der erste wird von zwei Sopranstimmen gesungen, die vom Chor mit den Worten des Refrains begleitet werden. Für den zweiten König wird das Tempo ein wenig gesteigert, doch die Oberstimmen singen weiter den beschreibenden Text zur Refrainbegleitung des Chors. Der dritte König wird auf mysteriöse Weise eingeführt, doch die Musik verwandelt sich in ein energiereiches Scherzo zur Beschreibung des goldenen Tands und der Freude des Kindes. Das Stück schließt in ruhig-nachdenklicher Stimmung.

aus dem Begleittext von Paul Spicer © 2010
Deutsch: Henning Weber

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A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey
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