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Britten Centenary recordings:

A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28; St Nicolas, Op. 42

Allan Clayton (tenor) City of London Sinfonia, Holst Singers & Temple Church Choristers Trinity College Choir Cambridge/Stephen Layton

Hyperion: CDA67946

Canticles I-V Ben Johnson (tenor), James Baillieu (piano), Christopher Ainslie (countertenor), Benedict Nelson (baritone), Martin Owen (horn) & Lucy Wakeford (harp)

Signum SIGCD317

The Britten celebrations are bringing welcome opportunities to reappraise works which were popular some decades ago; riches in latest recording quality and backed by some new scholarship.

We are gradually getting used to tenors who are not Peter Pears; he dominated the catalogues for so long. For the Carols, we are reminded that the Ceremony was composed for girls' voices. Both these works, a little overshadowed for some time, come up fresh and amaze with Britten's choice of verse and texts to set. Likewise in the Canticles, which benefit from being recorded as as a whole set which have, since the first performances of My beloved - - , conflating Jesus and Pears in a nicely ambiguous text "- - there could be no greater summary of Britten's work - - deep with meaning or subversion" [Ben Johnson].

For his instrumental works, we are learnng that the cellists of the present generation are the equals of Rostropovich, and Gerhard's accounts of the cello symphony, sonata and suites are right up top.

All these are recommendable, deserving places in your library, even if you have the original recordings involving Pears and Britten himself, who set high recording standards and retain their places in the catalogue.

Peter Grahame Woolf