Britten: A Ceremony of Carols & Saint Nicolas

2013 sees the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth and Hyperion starts celebrating early with this disc of two of the composer’s most popular choral works, both with a Christmas relevance.

The cantata Saint Nicolas tells the story of the original ‘Santa Claus’, a fourth-century saint whose acts—revitalizing three boys who had been pickled by an unscrupulous landlord being among the more dramatic—led to his canonization as patron saint of children and sailors. Britten’s lively setting is distinctly operatic, full of incident and colour—with the story brought ‘home’ through the use of congregational hymns. The part of Nicolas (here sung magnificently by Allan Clayton, already acclaimed as the heir to Peter Pears and Anthony Rolfe Johnson) is one of Britten’s great heroic tenor roles.

A Ceremony of Carols is a setting for treble voices and harp of some of the medieval texts which Britten loved so much, and is heard every Christmas in cathedrals, churches and concert halls throughout the land. This fresh, sparkling performance completes a thoroughly festive release.

CDA67946  73 minutes 17 seconds
‘As the Britten centenary looms into view, it is good to be able to offer an enthusiastic welcome to this sparkling release of two of his 1940s 'classic' scores … Allan Clayton makes the role of ...
‘The clear-toned adult voices of The Choir of Trinty College, Cambridge, highlight qualities in the work often missed when performed by the usual boys' choir: the eerie beauty of 'That yongë child' bl ...
‘A Christmas favourite, the cantata St Nicolas, in which Stephen Layton directs an interpretation of subtlety and dramatic thrust’ (The Daily Telegraph)