Britten - A Ceremony of Carols & Saint Nicolas - The Sunday Times



With this ideal coupling, Stephen Layton and his choral forces are getting in early with Christmas and Britten centenary celebrations.  A Ceremony of Carols is so associated with boys' voices, it comes as a shock to learn that it was conceived with women's voices in mind, even though Layton's soprano and mezzos affect a purity that sounds "boyish".  Their intonation in the piquant harmonies of Wolcum Yole impresses, but diction is sometimes muddy.  In the cantata, Allan Clayton's Nicolas is more youthful-sounding that his predecessors (Pears, Tear, Langridge), but Layton captures the mystery-play-like drama of the saint's life story.

Hugh Canning

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