An inspiring sequence of Christmas music ancient and modern, culminating in Britten’s virtuosic choral masterpiece, A Boy Was Born: Paul McCreesh leads the Gabrieli Consort (joined by the Trebles of Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir) in this evocative and contrasting collection of festive works that samples works from the 12th century to the present day.
What people are saying
"It’s the type of artistry that completely avoids the impression of artifice: you simply feel you’re listening directly to what the composer meant by the music. A wonderful Christmas offering: treat yourself or one of your friends, or both, to it." Performance & Recording – 5 Stars, BBC Music Magazine
"The Gabrieli Consort’s sequence of a cappella Christmas music is my highlight of this year’s offerings … Flawless performances in the radiant acoustics of Douai Abbey, Berkshire, make this an utterly compelling disc." Choir and Organ, December 2014
The Gabrieli Consort
Trebles of the Cophehagen Royal Chapel Choir
Release date:30th Sep 2013
Christmas CD Roundup 2014
…. The Gabrieli Consort’s sequence of a cappella Christmas music is my highlight of this year’s offerings. Director Paul McCreesh has made a very personal and imaginative selection of repertoire, contrasting the delicacy of medieval pieces with the rich harmonic textures of contemporary works by composers such as Kenneth Leighton, Herbert Howells, Jonathan Dove and Francis Pott. In the concluding magisterial performance of Britten’s a Boy was Born the Gabrielis are joined by the confident trebles of Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir. Flawless performances in the radiant acoustics of Douai Abbey, Berkshire, make this an utterly compelling disc.
Choir and Organ
Recording of the Month
When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll: this is the sixth Gabrieli Consort issue on its own ‘Winged Lion’ imprint, and easily matches the outstanding quality of its predecessors. This is partly due to conductor Paul McCreesh’s bold and imaginative programming, resulting in a Christmas issue which is genuinely challenging and different.
The new disc kicks off with a beautiful setting of Adam lay ybounden by the young composer Matthew Martin. Emerging hushed and distanced, as from the very depths of history, Martin’s music evokes in an extraordinarily suggestive manner the theological paradox buried within the Eden story – that Mary’s to ‘heav’né queen’ depended upon sin itself, and the need to purge it later with a saviour. The Gabrieli’s rapt and intense performance is remarkable in its poise and tonal control at mainly low dynamic levels.
From there it’s back to the 13th century, for the traditional Veni, Veni Emanuel. The opening two verses, first women, then men, are done in unison, which can be painfully revealing of a choir’s technical weaknesses. Here there are none – one simply marvels at the easy unanimity of note placement, and also of nuance and expression.
The pattern of modern juxtaposed with ancient continues, Howell’s poignantly retrospective Long, long ago rubbing shoulders with the medieval monody of Lullay, lullay, a limpid solo by countertenor Matthew Venner, who sustains its seven-minute span superbly. There’s more fine solo work from soprano Ruth Provost at the beginning of Leighton’s A Hymn of the Nativity, whose intense, affecting dialogue contrasts strikingly with the placid Sarum Chant Letabundus which follows. In the same mellifluous vein is Francis Pott’s Balulalow, where Emma Walshe’s crystal-pure soprano soars elegantly above the gently undulating choral textures. Jonathan Dove also uses a rocking rhythm to underlay The Three Kings, whose clamorous climax is incisively dispatched by the singers.
Capping the programme is a magnificent account of Britten’s A Boy was Born, by turns deeply inward and blazingly expressive. The dauntingly difficult Variation VI (‘Noël’) which closes the piece is a tour de force of Gabrieli virtuosity: it’s an incredibly energised and concentrated piece of singing, and culminates in joy exuberance.
At the heart of everything is the consummate technical ability and sense of idiom displayed by the 28 Gabrieli singers, and McCreesh’s inspirational direction. It’s the type of artistry that completely avoids the impression of artifice: you simply feel you’re listening directly to what the composer meant by the music. A wonderful Christmas offering: treat yourself or one of your friends, or both, to it.
Performance & Recording – 5 Stars
BBC Music Magazine, Terry Blain
- Adam Lay Ybounden – Matthew Martin – 3.39
- Veni, Veni Emanuel – Anonymous (13th century) – 3.30
- Long, Long Ago – Herbert Howells – 6.00
- Lullay, Lullay: Als I Lay on Yoolis Night – Anonymous (14th century) – 7.16
- Balulalow – Francis Pott – 2.56
- Qui Creavit Celum – Anonymous (13th/14th century) – 2.52
- The Three Kings – Jonathan Dove – 4.37
- This Endere Nyghth I Saw a Syghth – Anonymous (15th/16th century) – 7.06
- A Hymn of The Nativity – Kenneth Leighton – 6.54
- Letabundus – Anonymous (12th/13th century) – 3.23
- A Boy Was Born: I. A Boy Was Born – Benjamin Britten – 2.15
- A Boy Was Born: II. Lullay, Jesu – Benjamin Britten – 3.43
- A Boy Was Born: III. Herod – Benjamin Britten – 2.03
- A Boy Was Born: IV. Jesu, as Thou art our Saviour – Benjamin Britten – 3.08
- A Boy Was Born: V. The Three Kings – Benjamin Britten – 3.42
- A Boy Was Born: VI. In the bleak mid-winter – Benjamin Britten – 5.19
- A Boy Was Born: VII. Noel! – Benjamin Britten – 9.00