Paul McCreesh graduated from the University of Manchester in 1981 with a Bachelor’s Degree in music performance and musicology, he was a cellist. In 1982 he founded the Gabrieli Consort & Players specializing in Renaissance and Baroque music, often presenting little-known period repertoire. The ensemble released the Gramophone Award-winning album Venetian Coronation on Virgin Classics in 1990. McCreesh is also founder and Artistic Director of the Brinkburn Summer Music Festival, in England, which he began in 1994. He was Artistic Director of the Wratislavia Cantans Festival between 2006 and 2012, and in 2013 he became Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon. McCreesh also enjoys conducting opera and has taken part in productions at the Teatro Real Madrid, Royal Danish Opera, Vlaamse Opera and the Verbier Festival. His album of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem was awarded the BBC Music Magazine Award in 2014, his recording of Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah won the Diapason d’Or Award, in 2013 and his rendition of Berlioz’s gargantuan Grande Messe des Morts received the BBC Award in 2012. McCreesh is especially passionate about working with young musicians and broadening access to classical music. The conductor works regularly with youth orchestras and choirs and is active in cultivating new educational initiatives.
Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny graduated from the University of Wrocław in 2000 with a degree in biology. That year, she founded the Kameralny Chór Akademii Medycznej (Medici Cantantes Choir at the Medical University of Wrocław). In 2004, she received a diploma from the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, where she studied Music Education and was awarded a diploma in 2005 from the Vocal Department. During this time, she was honoured with the first prize in the National Contest for Choir Conductors. In 2006, she completed the Postgraduate Voice Production and Training Programme at the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz. Since June 2006, Franków-Żelazny has been the artistic director of the National Forum of Music Choir. In 2008, she was awarded a special prize for conductors from the 39th Legnica Cantat National Choir Contest. Franków-Żelazny became the head of Polish National Youth Choir, which she also founded, in 2013. She completed course work at the Academy of Culture Leaders at the Economic University of Kraków, in 2014 and was distinguished with the Gloria Artis Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture. The following January, she was named the programme director of the Choral Academy of the National Forum of Music. In 2016, Franków-Żelazny was a music curator for the year that Wrocław served as the European Capital of Culture. The album DE PROFUNDIS – Polish Psalms of the 20th and 21st Century with the NMF Choir under her direction was awarded the Fryderyk prize for the best choral, oratorio and orchestra music, 2017. She currently works as an Associate Professor at the Academy of Music in Wrocław.
Małgorzata Podzielny is a graduate of the Music Education Department in conducting under professor Maria Oraczewska-Skorek, as well as the Composition, Conducting, Music Theory and Music Therapy Department of the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław. She completed her Postgraduate studies for Choirmasters in Bydgoszcz and is a grant holder of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Since September 2002, she has been conducting the Con Brio Choir, String Orchestra and chamber ensembles at the Grażyna Bacewicz Primary Music School, in Wrocław. She currently holds the title of Artistic Director of the Vocal Ensemble, Rondo. For four years she has served as the deputy director of the Sacred Music School at the Theology Department of Opole University and as a lecturer of Music Education at the Wrocław Music Academy. Additionally, Podzielny participates at workshops and seminars as a guest lecturer on the issue of voice emission in boys’ chorus.
Benjamin Britten entered the Royal College of Music in 1930, where he studied piano with Harold Samuel and Arthur Benjamin and composition with John Ireland. He composed A Boy was Born during his last year of studies in 1932 and 1933. The piece was Britten’s first published choral work and in its composition he perfects the variation form and the idea of a Christmas suite based on Christ’s Nativity. The premiere performance took place on December 17, 1934 at the Mercury Theatre by the BBC Singers, under the baton of Iris Lemare. The text Britten used comes from Percy Deamer’s translation of the German chorale, Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem, which he found in the 1928 edition of the Oxford Book of Carols and both the text and original tune come from a 13th or 14th century Latin original, Puer natus in Bethlehem. The work is written for acapella choir and is presented in seven sections, a theme and six variations on festive subjects. The first movement is a dialogue between Mary and Jesus, the second, about the massacre of innocents and the third is a setting of the text Jesu as Thou art our saviour. The fourth variation pertains to the three kings and then the piece moves to a setting of Rossetti's In the Bleak Midwinter, before returning to the original theme. Britten, known to be a perfectionist, was not happy with the first performance. However, the work immediately proved to be popular with audiences. The Observer praised its “endless invention and facility… He rivets attention from the first note onwards: without knowing in the least what is coming, one feels instinctively that this is music it behoves one to listen to.”
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator