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These exemplary recordings of Britten’s choral music from Harry Christophers and The Sixteen originally appeared on the now defunct Collins label, were reissued on Coro (The Sixteen’s own label) a few years ago and are repackaged now for the Britten centenary in a desirable ‘3 for the price of 2’ offer. Writing for chorus spans Britten’s entire compositional life, from Hymn to the Virgin (1930) to Sacred and Profane (1975). These three well-filled CDs programme virtually all the unaccompanied choral music as well as those pieces for chorus with organ or harp accompaniment. Christophers takes exceptional pains in his choice of tempi, blend of voices and balance of sound, and one would be hard pressed to take issue with anything on these discs. Indeed, some performances are quite exceptional: for example, the virtuosic choral variations of A Boy Was Born are breathtaking, and it is heart-warming to hear Ian Partridge’s fine tenor as the Spirit of the Masque in the Choral Dances from ‘Gloriana’. While Britten definitely intended both Ceremony of Carols and Missa brevis to be sung by boys’ voices, the sound of The Sixteen’s women is here so beguiling that one doesn’t really miss too much the extra bite of boys.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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