Britten: Choral Works – Choral Dances from Gloriana; Hymn to St Cecilia; A Hymn to the Virgin; Five Flower Songs; A.M.D.G.

Reviewed on Thu 07 Mar, 2019

A Hymn to the Virgin is bewitching in its bursts of shining light from luminous high voices, the Five Flower Songs a delicately perfumed bouquet.

Berlin’s RIAS Kammerchor has long been eloquent advocates for 20th-century British a cappella music, making this all-Britten disc under artistic director Justin Doyle an appetising prospect. Evident throughout is the choir’s beautifully blended, poetic signature, all the more pleasing for being lent sharper definition by Doyle. Outstanding are the Gerard Manley Hopkins settings, A.M.D.G. (Ad majorem Dei gloriam), sung with elasticity of line, a numinous beauty of sound and a becoming rhythmic vitality and gusto where required. A well-oiled, elegantly combined fluidity of sound comes into its own in The Hymn to St Cecilia, dispatched with exquisite lightness and glowing rounded vowels. A Hymn to the Virgin is bewitching in its bursts of shining light from luminous high voices, the Five Flower Songs a delicately perfumed bouquet. Gloriana’s six choral dances are well contrasted, with sensitivity to shape and mood as they transition from gravity to joy, characterful rural portraits and a solemn, serene ending.
–Michael Quinn