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Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols / King's College


Release Date: 12/08/2009 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 86082   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Henry John GauntlettPeter Andrew TranchellThomas RavenscroftBoris Ord,   ... 
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If you're a choral/Christmas music fan and you've somehow managed not to own at least two or three recordings of the famed Choir of King's College, Cambridge in its world-renowned Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, this one from Christmas Eve 2008 is a fine place to start your collection. For one thing, several of the most time-honored repertoire standards are here, including Boris Ord's Adam lay ybounden, Herbert Howells' A Spotless Rose, and John Rutter's now-classic What sweeter music. Ravenscroft's somber but efficiently elucidative anthem Remember, O thou man, which church choirs all over the world love to hate--but sing anyway--makes an appearance, along with Vaughan Williams' quietly lovely Wither's Rocking Hymn, the Hieronymus Read more Praetorius setting of In dulci jubilo (in an arrangement by Philip Ledger), Lennox Berkeley's I sing of a maiden, and Judith Weir's always striking Illuminare Jerusalem, (those trebles are particularly impressive!).

Of course, under ideal recording conditions certain details of ensemble might be just that much more refined, but these are small details, and the choir is very well recorded. Yes, there are also the usual appurtenances of a live church service--the congregation singing slightly behind the organ in the several congregational carols, the occasional (distant) cough, but the point here is to capture an occasion--and to give a real sense of the space and atmosphere while presenting the choir (and organ) in the most advantageous and natural manner possible. And this is exactly what the performers and engineers deliver.

It's nice once again to hear Rutter's What sweeter music sung by the choir--and on the occasion--for which it was written in 1988. Rutter has described his most popular anthem as "a little fragile" and "actually not all that easy to sing well"--and although this is one of the better performances of What sweeter music on disc--exquisite phrasing, gorgeous vocal tone from all sections--you do notice the fragility in the trebles' slightly imperfect intonation at one brief moment in the middle of the piece; but then, these same voices are near-perfect throughout, as their intonation at the end of Wither's Rocking Hymn (Vaughan Williams) and their stellar performance of the difficult Weir anthem illustrate.

Typically there are a couple of "new" pieces in the Lessons & Carols program, in this case the more engaging one is Dominic Muldowney's Mary, its text from Bertolt Brecht. New to me is Alan Bullard's delightful, excitedly scurrying Glory, alleluia to the Christ Child, a terrific piece that should be in every serious choir's Christmas repertoire. And of course, this newest document of one of the most revered Christmas traditions should be in every serious choral listener's library.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Once in Royal David's City by Henry John Gauntlett
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; England 
2.
If ye would hear the angels sing by Peter Andrew Tranchell
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
3.
Remember, O thou man by Thomas Ravenscroft
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1611; England 
4.
Adam lay ybounden by Boris Ord
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; England 
5.
Angels from the realms of glory by Traditional
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: France 
6.
In dulci jubilo by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
7.
Nowell sing ye now by Traditional
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
8.
Unto us is born a son by Traditional
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1582 
9.
The Lamb "Little Lamb, who made thee?" by John Tavener
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; England 
10.
Carol-Anthems (3) for Chorus: no 2, A spotless rose by Herbert Howells
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1920; England 
11.
I sing of a maiden by Lennox Berkeley
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
12.
Mary by Dominic Muldowney
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
13.
Wither's rocking Hymn by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
14.
What Sweeter Music by John Rutter
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; England 
15.
Infant holy, infant lowly by Traditional
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: Poland 
16.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen by Traditional
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Written: England 
17.
Illuminare, Jerusalem by Judith Weir
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; England 
18.
Glory, alleluia to the Christ Child by Alan Bullard
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
19.
Adeste fideles "O come, all ye faithful" by John Francis Wade
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1782; England 
20.
Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
21.
In dulci jubilo, BWV 729 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany 

Sound Samples

Once in royal David's city (processional hymn)
Bidding Prayer - The Lord's Prayer - Blessing
If ye would hear the angels sing
First Lesson - Genesis 3
Remember, O thou man
Adam lay ybounden
Second lesson - Genesis 22
Angels from the realms of glory
Canticum Beatae Mariae Virginis seu Magnificat (Hamburg, 1602): In dulci jubilo
Third Lesson - Isaiah 9
Nowell sing ye now
Unto us is born a Son
Fourth Lesson - Isaiah 11
The Lamb
A spotless rose
Fifth Lesson - St Luke 1
I sing of a maiden
Mary
Sixth Lesson - St Luke 2
Wither's rocking Hymn
What sweeter music
Seventh Lesson - St Luke 2
Infant holy, Infant lowly
God rest ye merry gentlemen
Eighth Lesson - St Matthew 2
Illuminare Jerusalem
Glory, alleluia to the Christ Child!
Ninth Lesson - St John 1
O come, all ye faithfull
Prayer & Blessing
Hark! The herald-angels sing
In dulci jubilo BWV 729

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Another fine 9 Lessons & Carols from Kings January 7, 2014 By Gerald M. (Rockville, MD) See All My Reviews "A very fine recording in the tradition of Kings College, Cambridge, of their Christmas Eve service." Report Abuse
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