Performances of Bach's St. John Passion, BWV 245, with these forces or close to them have become an annual Eastertime tradition in London, and this recording is guaranteed an appreciative audience. Certain details relate specifically to this tradition: several chorales are sung unaccompanied, but an accompanied version is included at the end for those who reject the dramatization.
Performer Culture & Literature responds to the new needs of the school integrating harmoniously and motivating the study of culture, literature and language.
An all-too-rare new recording from Polyphony and Stephen Layton presents highlights from the choral repertoire by four twentieth-century American giants: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Framed by Thompson’s understated favourites Alleluia and Fare Well, the programme includes Bernstein’s Missa brevis, Copland’s early set of four motets, and—of course—Barber’s inimitable Agnus Dei.
Grainger’s mastery of choral textures shines out of this wide-ranging collection of folk-song arrangements, each highly individual and memorable. Plus his friend Grieg’s finely scored religious settings. Superior performances by Stephen Layton and Polyphony.
Christmas Oratorio is topical, it’s also universal. It doesn’t require lights or tinsel or presents under the tree to instruct, inspire, and/or entertain, especially if it is presented in as fine a performance as this one fashioned by Stephen Layton and his cohort. Layton is the director of music at Trinity College, Cambridge (having succeeded Richard Marlow), and his choir is top-notch, as is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, mercifully identified as OAE. OAE’s roster is rife with such familiar names from the period instruments movement as Margaret Faultless (who is just that here) and Alison Bury. To mention Anthony Robson, oboe, and David Blackadder, trumpet, is not to slight any of the other players. Layton’s solo quartet is outstanding, too. James Gilchrist is always excellent, but never more so than here, doubling as Evangelist and soloist. Iestyn Davies has risen to the top rank of countertenors. Katherine Watson’s sweet soprano and Matthew Brook’s resonant bass are no less gratifying. Layton’s direction is near perfect, on the mark from start to finish. I’ve long treasured John Eliot Gardiner’s Christmas Oratorio , but Sir John will have to make room Stephen Layton at the top of my list. (George Chien)