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Polyphony (Vocal Ensemble)

Founded: 1986 - Cambridge, England

Polyphony was formed by Stephen Layton in 1986 for a concert in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Since then the choir has performed and recorded regularly to great critical acclaim throughout the world. Recent reviews declare Polyphony ‘one of the best small choirs now before the public’ (Telegraph) and ‘possibly the best small professional chorus in the world’ (Encore Magazine, USA). In a new poll by Gramophone Magazine they were named as one of the world’s leading choirs ‘Stephen Layton’s choir have become renowned for both their sound and versatility – whether in early music, or contemporary works such as those of Eric Whitacre, they embody the remarkable tradition of British choral excellence at its finest.’

For more than a decade Polyphony has given annual sell-out performances of J.S. Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245) and George Frideric Handel's Messiah at St John’s Smith Square. These have become notable events in London’s music calendar and have been broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and the EBU. According to the Evening Standard ‘no one but no one performs Handel’s Messiah better every year than the choir Polyphony’, and the Times rate it ‘amongst the finest John Passions…ever heard’.

Recent diary highlights include a performance of J.S. Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245) with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, and a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Requiem with the City of London Sinfonia at the BBC Proms in August 2011. Here they ‘deployed meticulous ensemble to thrilling effect’ (Evening Standard) and were described as ‘a marvellous choir, clearly defined in articulation and full-bodied in sonority’ by the Telegraph. Future performance highlights include appearances at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, as part of their Zaterdag Matinee series; Belfast Festival as part of their 50 year celebrations; and Aldeburgh Festival to mark the start of their Benjamin Britten celebrations. Further notable performances have included regular festival appearances, including dates at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals, and at the RTE Living Music Festival in Dublin; and numerous première performances including works by John Tavener in honour of his 60th birthday as part of the Barbican’s Great Performers series, and works by Arvo Pärt and Pawel £ukaszewski. Broadcast highlights include performances of works by Francis Poulenc, Rautavaara, Tormis, Benjamin Britten and Percy Grainger for BBC Radio 3, works by Arvo Pärt for RTE, and an EBU broadcast of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). Performances abroad include concerts in France, Spain, Brazil, Denmark and Hungary.

Polyphony’s extensive discography on the Hyperion label encompasses works by Benjamin Britten, Bruckner, Cornelius, Percy Grainger, Grieg, Jackson, Lauridsen, Łukaszewski, MacMillan, Arvo Pärt, Francis Poulenc, John Rutter, Tavener, William Walton, and Whitacre. The disc of “Britten, Sacred and Profane”, won a Gramophone Award and a Diapason d’Or in 2001, and the choir’s première recording of works by Arvo Pärt, “Triodion”, was Best of Category (Choral) at the 2004 Gramophone Awards. Polyphony also received Gramophone Award nominations in 2002 for the W. Walton CD, and in 2008 for F. Poulenc’s Gloria, described by Gramophone Magazine as ‘a performance of real distinction … simply incredible’.

In the USA, Polyphony’s recordings have twice been nominated for Grammy Awards: in 2006 for Lux aeterna, a disc of works by Morten Lauridsen, and in 2007 for a disc of works by Eric Whitacre, “Cloudburst”. This ‘staggering disc’ (BBC Radio 3) spent more than fifty weeks in the Billboard Classical Album Chart, and has been hailed by the Times as ‘extraordinarily beautiful’, by CNN as ‘outstanding’, and by Classic FM Magazine as ‘unmissable’.

Polyphony’s recording of G.F. Handel’s Messiah, recorded live during the 2008 performances at St John’s Smith Square was named Editor’s Choice as well as one of the 50 best recordings of the year by Gramophone Magazine. Classic FM magazine concludes ‘there are few finer exponents of this great oratorio than Polyphony and Stephen Layton… if you only listen to one Messiah this Christmas, Stephen Layton and Polyphony’s live recording should be it’. Polyphony’s most recent release is a disc of works by the young Latvian composer, Eriks Esenvalds. Recorded with Carolyn Sampson and the Britten Sinfonia, “Passion and Resurrection” was described by International Record Review as ‘utterly gorgeous’ and ‘totally absorbing’.

Members of Polyphony:





Rachel Ambrose Evans
Philippa Boyle
Emma Brain-Gabbott
Zoë Brown
Libby Crabtree
Grace Davidson
Julia Doyle
Ellen Giacone
Alison Hill
Emilia Hughes
Elin Manahan Thomas
Gwendolen Martin
Amy Moore
Laura Oldfield
Bethany Partridge
Emma Preston-Dunlop
Emma Walshe
Louise Wayman
Jayne Whitaker
Lucy Winkett
Amy Wood [MB]

Ian Aitkenhead [MB]
David Allsopp
Catherine Backhouse
Aaron Burchell
James Burton
Richard Bannan
Helen Charlston
Christopher Field
Ruth Gibbins
David Gould
Guy James
Christopher Lowrey
Ruth Massey
William Missin
Katie Schofield
Matthew Venner
Tom Williams

Ben Alden
Hiroshi Amako
Paul Bentley
Gwilym Bowen
Ronan Busfield
Guy Cutting
Julian Forbes
Christopher Hann
Thomas Hobbs
Benedict Hymas
Oliver Jones
Andrew Kennedy
Adrian Lowe
Graham Neal
Nicholas Pritchard
Nicholas Todd
Simon Wall
Christopher Watson
David de Winter

Richard Bannan
Michael Craddock
Gabriel Crouch
William Dawes
Christopher Gabbitas
Edward Grint
Jamie Hall
Johnny Herford
Lukas Jakobski
Dominic Kraemer
Robert Rice
Ashley Riches
Richard Savage
Giles Underwood
Simon Whiteley
Laurence Williams

MB = Missing Biography. If you would like to contribute a biography of the artist, please send me a message. My e-mail address and the instructions can be found at the page: Short Biographies - Explanation.

Source: Hazard Chase Website (valid for use until September 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2013, May 2015, February-March 2017)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Stephen Layton


BWV 245

Links to other Sites

Polyphony (Official Website)
Polyphony (Hazard Chase)

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Last update: Wednesday, September 06, 2017 22:13