Advent Calendar Day 8: There is No Rose (Benjamin Britten)

Who would ever have thought that I’d be sitting here recommending Britten to anyone?  He usually leaves me feeling rather puzzled and frustrated, because he always seems to have the most interesting ideas for texts, and then his music just does nothing for me,

And then there’s this setting of the medieval carol ‘There is no rose of swych vertu‘, and it is lush and gorgeous and altogether breathtakingly beautiful and it was written by Britten?  Astonishing.

I have to say, too, that this choir has a wonderful sound – there’s a lot of depth to it, and the ending is impeccable.  I find this particularly interesting, because it was originally written for treble choir, and I keep finding reviews of other performances which point out that a boys’ choir or a children’s choir is the only proper way to sing this and the way Britten intended it and so forth, and the children’s choirs are certainly very good, but it’s a shallower sound, and to my ear it lacks something.  (Possibly triplets.  Everyone seems to have a lot of trouble with the triplets, and some of the children’s choirs have given up entirely.) They also have a tendency to go much faster than the adult choirs, which doesn’t seem quite right for this piece.

Here’s a version by the New London Children’s Choir, so you can compare for yourself.  Their top notes are thrilling, but I think I still prefer the sound of the women’s chorus.

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Advent Calendar Day 25: There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Fields (Handel)

Merry Christmas!  I thought it fitting to end Advent with another piece from Handel’s Messiah, and this recording is a fascinating one, dating from 1930.  Singing styles have changed quite a bit since then, and I think my personal preference is for a rather faster version of this recitative, but there is something rather special about listening to a voice that was recorded more than 80 years ago.

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