Howells • Walton • Rutter • Grieg • Cornelius • Pärt • Grainger

COMPOSERS: Cornelius; Grainger; Grieg; Howells; Part; Rutter; Walton
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: A Christmas present from Polyphony
WORKS: Carols and choral works by Howells, Walton, Rutter, Grieg, Cornelius, Pärt, Grainger,
PERFORMER: Polyphony; City of London Sinfonia/Stephen Layton


A Christmas present from Polyphony is largely a reissue of extracts from the London choir’s previous Hyperion recordings and contains some stunning singing. The two Arvo Pärt selections (‘O Morgenstern’ and Magnificat) are a good place to sample: both are object lessons in how to sustain focused tone and intonation at low dynamic levels, one of the most difficult choral arts to master. A Hymn to the Virgin, by the 16-year-old Britten, impresses in its atmospheric handling of the distanced semi-chorus, and in a natural fluidity of phrasing achievable only by high calibre singers. Among pieces by Rutter, Walton, Grieg and Leighton, a sneak preview is provided of a forthcoming Polyphony CD of music by Morten Lauridsen: his rapt 1994 setting ‘O magnum mysterium’ whets the appetite for the full issue. Stephen Layton directs the performances and deserves major credit for the very high standards evident on this compilation.