Saint Nicolas, a cantata by Benjamin Britten

November 27, 2021, 4:30 pm

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Benjamin Britten’s cantata about the canonized Bishop of Myra was written for the centenary of Lancing College in Sussex in 1948. At his disposal were an amateur chorus, a girls chorus, an amateur string orchestra, a piano, an organ, and percussion. With a few professional “ringers” in the mix and a star tenor soloist, Britten was able to create a miniature masterpiece with music as modern as his opera Albert Herring; and as charming as the children’s opera Noye’s Fludde.  Not quite a piece for the holiday season, Saint Nicolas can be thought of as an origin story for Santa Claus. It is an uncompromising work that is as enjoyable for the performers as it is for the audience.

 

Playlist

Playlist to include selections from the recordings listed below.

Peter Pears, tenor
Ralph Downes, organ
Aldeburgh Festival Chorus, Boys From The Choir Of St. Mary-Le-Tower, Ipswich, Boys’ Choir Of Ipswich School Preparatory Department, and Girls’ Choir Of Sir John Leman School, Beccles
The Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra
Benjamin Britten, conductor
Recorded in 1955
London 425-714-2

Philip Langridge, tenor
Nicholas Elstob, treble
Joseph Cullen, organ
Tallis Chamber Choir
English Chamber Orchestra
Steuart Bedford, conductor
Recorded in 1996
Naxos 8.557203

Allan Clayton, tenor
Jeremy Cole, organ
Trinity College Choir Cambridge, Holst Singers, and Temple Church Choristers
City of London Sinfonia
Stephen Layton, conductor
Recorded in 2012

Hyperion CDA67946

Andrew Kennedy, tenor
Choir of King’s College Cambridge, Sawston Village College Ensemble, Sawston Village College Choir, and CUMS Chorus
The Ensemble of King’s College Cambridge
Britten Sinfonia
Stephen Cleobury, conductor & organ
Recorded in 2013
Kings College KGS0003