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Hymn To St Cecilia - A Celebration of Benjamin Britten

“Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire...”

– Hymn to St Cecilia

St Cecilia is the patron saint of music, and this magnificent double album celebrates one of her greatest protegés, Benjamin Britten.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth (on St Cecilia’s Day itself, in 1913) and in honour of the occasion, ABC Classics has brought together some of Britten’s best-loved works in a tribute to the greatest British composer of the 20th century – arguably the greatest composer of the modern age.

He had a particular genius for setting the English language to music, and his music has a poetry of its own in works like the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. He discovered new beauty in the traditional melodies of British folk song, with jewels like The Salley Gardens, The Ash Grove and O Waly, Waly.

He breathed new life into English opera, raising it again to heights it had not enjoyed since the glory days of Purcell and Handel two centuries before, with masterpieces like Peter Grimes and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And his awe-inspiring War Requiem, incorporating poetry by Wilfred Owen, stands unequalled as a testament to the horror and the pity of War.

In The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Britten translates a single line of music into an astonishing kaleidoscope of orchestral colours and textures which has seen the work firmly established as a concert favourite with audiences of all ages. But perhaps his most glorious pieces are his choral works: the magic of A Ceremony of Carols, the deep joy of Rejoice in the Lamb, and the soaring beauty of his Hymn to St Cecilia.

This album features performances conducted by Britten himself, with tenor Peter Pears – Britten’s life partner and musical inspiration – as well as recent recordings by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, The Monteverdi Choir and top Australian artists including Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Yvonne Kenny.

Music of breathtaking beauty – an album to treasure.

Track Listing

CD1 

1-3 Hymn to St Cecilia

The Monteverdi Choir, John Eliot Gardiner

4-7 Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Benjamin Britten

8 War Requiem: Sanctus

Galina Vishnevskaya, The Bach Choir, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Benjamin Britten

9 Canticle II – Abraham and Isaac

John Hahessy, Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten

10-14 Suite for solo harp

Marshall McGuire

15-21 Rejoice in the Lamb

Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury

CD2 

1-8 Serenade for tenor, horn and strings

Peter Pears, Barry Tuckwell, London Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

Folk Song Arrangements:

9 The Ash Grove

10 The Salley Gardens

11 The Foggy, Foggy Dew

12 The Minstrel Boy

Yvonne Kenny & Carolyn Almonte, Teddy Tahu Rhodes & Sharolyn Kimmorley

13-14 A Boy was Born – excerpts

Jane Sheldon, Cantillation, Brett Weymark

Folk Song Arrangements:

15 How Sweet the Answer

16 I Will Give My Love an Apple

17 O Waly, Waly

Yvonne Kenny & Carolyn Almonte, Teddy Tahu Rhodes & Sharolyn Kimmorley

18-24 The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – excerpt

Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Northey

25 A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Now the Hungry Lion Roars

Alfred Deller, Elizabeth Harwood, London Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

26-37 A Ceremony of Carols

Choir of Trinity College, Melbourne, Marshall McGuire, Michael Leighton Jones

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