Britten: A Ceremony of Carols; Rejoice in the Lamb; Sacred and Profane; Hymn to St Cecilia

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: A Ceremony of Carols; Rejoice in the Lamb; Sacred and Profane; Hymn to St Cecilia
PERFORMER: Margaret Crossland, Sally Barber, Julia Field, Mark Johnstone, Malcolm Field, Nigel Franceschi, Peter Kerswell, Andrew Angus, Caryl Thomas (harp) ; Vasari Singers/Jeremy Backhouse
CATALOGUE NO: 7 64679 2 DDD
The Vasari Singers run a swift and sure course through this whistlestop tour of Britten’s vast choral output. The Ceremony of Carols, although written for treble voices, enjoys pureness of tone and rhythmic incisiveness from the ladies of the chorus, although here, as in the rest of the CD, it is difficult to hear the words. Margaret Crossland handles the solo ‘That yongë child’ with commendable sensitivity.

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For the ladies, the recording quality falls just short of being excellent. It lacks breadth and transparency, a fault that is put right when the rest of the choir joins in for the Hymn to St Cecilia and Sacred and Profane. These are sprightly and well-directed performances, but by the time we get to the last item on the disc, the a cappella voices are starting to sound a bit too delicate and whimsical. So the comparatively robust nature of Rejoice in the Lamb introduces a welcome note of extravagance. Here there is a substantial part for organ and the recording engineers can be justly proud of a fine balance.

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The packaging is rather stingy. It seems a false economy not to include the texts; nor are we told anything about the Vasari Singers. The timings of the bands have got hopelessly muddled, and the organist is not credited.Christopher Lambton