Britten: Sacred and Profane (CD Review - American Record Guide, 2001)

This collection of some of Britten’s a cappella choral music is wide-ranging – from the Hymn to the Virgin (1930) composed at the age of 16 to the late cycle of medieval poems, Sacred and Profane (1975) composed shortly before Britten’s death. Along the way we hear the difficult setting of Gerald Manley Hopkins's AMDG (composed in 1939 at the beginning of Britten’s sojourn in America, but not heard again or published until after Britten’s death). The Chorale on a text by Auden (Christmas 1944) and the musically lovely and intellectually stimulating excerpts from Gloriana and the Flower Songs complete the program.

Polyphony’s performances under Layton are musically impeccable, carefully wound and tuned, superbly balanced – a magnificent display of sheer beauty of choral sound, yet never lacking in intensity and delicate interpretive finesse.

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