Corydon Singers

Britten: A Boy Was Born; Festival Te Deum; Rejoice in the Lamb; A Wedding Anthem

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Hyperion's album of choral music by Britten includes "Rejoice in the Lamb," "A Wedding Anthem," "Festival Te Deum," and "A Boy Was Born." "Rejoice in the Lamb" (1943), one of Britten's most eccentrically odd works is a setting of an even more eccentric poem by eighteenth century English writer Christopher Smart. It's a piece that tends to polarize listeners into camps that find it either infinitely charming or unendurably precious.

The performance by the Corydon Singers and the Westminster Cathedral Choristers, accompanied by organist Thomas Trotter, is conducted with lightness by Matthew Best and emphasizes the work's gentle wit and simple earnestness. "A Wedding Anthem" (1949), composed for the marriage of the Earl of Harewood, is an immensely attractive piece that contains some of Britten's most ethereal choral writing, but the specificity of its text doesn't lend itself to performances apart from weddings, so it's a treat to have such a fine performance recorded here.

"Festival Te Deum," on the other hand, is one of his most frequently performed choral pieces, and is sung with energy and fervor. Britten wrote "A Boy Was Born," a set of choral variations, when he was 19, and it's an a cappella tour de force that, at a half hour's length, makes high demands on the singers. The chorus sings with delicacy, and also with the strength the work requires. Hyperion's sound is clear, but is set at such a quiet level that it requires a substantial boost in volume to get the sound into the range of normal audibility.

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