Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Yuletide Tradition and Novelty

From October 30, 2014:

The new BIS album from the excellent New York Polyphony includes a few old standbys; we all love the traditional at Christmastime. But as the classical Christmas CDs pile up, most of us look for something new as well, and this album delivers that.

The group - counter-tenor, tenor, baritone and bass - sings no less than four different versions of There is No Rose. The first is fairly well known; we've been singing it since the 15th Century. John Scott wrote a new version especially for New York Polyphony, and in between the group also sings Geoffrey Williams' adaptation, based on Samuel Sebastian Wesley's Hereford hymn.

The final There is No Rose is one of the Five Carols of utility-infield composer Richard Rodney Bennett. The four male voices are here joined by two sopranos, which brings welcome tonal variety to the program. The sopranos also sing on my favourite track on this album: Peter Warlock's Bethlehem Down. I've somehow managed to never take notice of this Anglican anthem in years and years of Christmases, though it seems to be a beloved standard in the UK. Based on a lovely poem by Bruce Blunt, this touching and sad piece ties the Nativity with the future Good Friday. Warlock and Blunt entered the piece in a newspaper Christmas Carol contest, and their winnings paid for their Christmas booze. The composer termed it "an immortal carouse." I'll be listening to this CD at Christmas while downing my own vintage port or single malt scotch.

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