"Although Honegger's "Cantate de Noel" stands as the 20th century's most moving choral work associated with the holidays, Britten's cantata "St. Nicolas" comes close, with his other Christmas music not far behind. Dramatic, even dark in places - as in Bach, a glimpse of the shade tends to help us better appreciate the light - Britten's tale of St. Nick is utterly enthralling, especially in this beautifully recorded performance. Conductor Stuart Bedford assisted Britten at the end of the composer's life and remains one of his most sensitive interpreters. The soloist in "St. Nicolas," tenor Philip Langridge, does his stirring best, as do the BBC Singers in "Christ's Nativity." Like many of Britten's late scores, his festive setting of Psalm 150 was designed for a mix of professional and amateur players; the children's chorus here shines brightly...the highest of holiday art available at low price."
The choir is the magnificent Tallis Scholars, accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra under Bedford. This is a fervent, lively, moving performance, marked by sometimes catchy, sometimes solemn and always expertly crafted choral/orchestral mix. There is little choose between it and Britten's earlier recording (except Naxos's exceptional price).
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