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Britten: Flower Songs, Choral Dances From Gloriana / Halsey, Malcolm

Britten / Halsey,Louis / Guest,George
Release Date: 07/03/2012 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4802336   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry
Conductor:  Louis HalseyGeorge Malcolm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan SingersLondon Symphony ChorusWestminster Cathedral Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRITTEN 5 Flower Songs. 2 Partsongs. Chorale. A Shepherd’s Carol. The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. Choral Dances from Gloriana. Old Abram Brown. Oliver Cromwell. O Can You Sew Cushions? The Sally Gardens. Hymn to the Virgin. Missa Brevis Louis Halsey, George Malcolm, cond; Elizabethan Singers; Wilfred Parry (pn); London S Ch; Westminster Cath Ch DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2336 (70: 33)

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Unlike the recent renewal of interest in his songs, Britten’s smaller corpus of unaccompanied choral music has not received much attention. These recordings, dating from the early 1960s, were a fine boost then to my burgeoning choral repertory, both as a singer and as a conductor.


The Five Flower Songs come from 1950 and are among Britten’s most affirmative pieces. They are largely homophonic, and the great gift of this ensemble was to make every part clear. The unaccompanied “Choral Dances” from the second act of Gloriana , three years later, share this light mood, and are, as befitted the occasion, celebratory. They are here given as first published, without the tenor and harp. While one can see compositional connections between these middle works and his final major choral piece, Sacred and Profane , from 1975, the more polyphonic structure of the latter harks back to his early A Boy Was Born , of 1933. The third major piece in this part of the program is the Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard , from 1943. This is a highly dramatic piece for men’s chorus and piano and is well sung here.


The Hymn to the Virgin (1930, rev. 1934) is the earliest piece heard here and its simple harmonic structure and antiphony has made it popular with choirs of all abilities. In 1959, Britten was commissioned by George Malcolm to write a Missa Brevis for the boys of Westminster Cathedral and this is a recording of it made during an early use of it at Mass at the cathedral. Malcolm takes it noticeably faster than many recent conductors, but that gives it its own urgency.


The Elizabethan Singers is a small professional London chorus founded by Louis Halsey in 1953 and is, according to its website, still in business. I have noted the clarity of its part-singing, but it may also be said that the women’s sound is much less focused than the men’s. The rather dead ambience is typical for studio recordings of the time. In the Mass, the boys sing with great enthusiasm and clarity, but their sound is rather shrill.


FANFARE: Alan Swanson
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Works on This Recording

1. Gloriana, Op. 53: Choral Dances by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
2. Friday Afternoons, Op. 7: no 12, Old Abram Brown by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1935; England 
3. Chorale on an old french Carol by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; England 
4. Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
5. A Shepherd's Carol by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; England 
6. Folksongs (7), Volume 1: no 7, Oliver Cromwell by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
7. Folksongs (7), Volume 1: no 4, O can ye sew cushions? by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
8. Folksongs (7), Volume 1: no 1, Salley Gardens by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
9. Flower Songs (5), Op. 47 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; England 
10. Part-Songs (2) by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Wilfrid Parry (Piano)
Conductor:  Louis Halsey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elizabethan Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932/1933 
11. Hymn to the Virgin by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  George Malcolm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930/1934; England 
12. Missa Brevis in D major, Op. 63 by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  George Malcolm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Cathedral Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; England 

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