King's College Choir of Cambridge / Stephen Cleobury

Britten: Saint Nicolas

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There is no shortage of recordings of the Benjamin Britten works on this album, but the stars have lined up behind this particular one. Although Saint Nicolas is not a Christmas work (the conflation of Saint Nick and Father Christmas is a separate story from that of the original Greek-born saint), the album's release in advance of the 2013 Christmas holidays was fortuitous. The Choir of King's College Cambridge has a long tradition of Britten performances dating back to the days of the composer himself, and tenor Andrew Kennedy manages a strong facsimile of the style of the work's original performer, Peter Pears. The King's College Chapel fits the unusually grand style of this work well, and the local, amateur side of the work is represented in the presence of the Sawton Village Choir. The CD version is packaged with double discs including a conventional and a Super Audio version; based on the clarity of the regular disc, Super Audio listeners would seem to be in for a real sonic treat. The familiar short Hymn to St. Cecilia and Rejoice in the Lamb are given brilliant performers by the King's College student chorister. Finally, the album contributes to the observance of the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth. In all, this a fine Britten release for anyone, and if you've been attracted to Britten by the film Moonrise Kingdom and are looking for the next place to go (Saint Nicolas is similar in style to Noyes Fludde, and both represent Britten's entries in the grand tradition of English oratorio), you just found it.

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