This DVD of the recently issued Britten/Pears mini series recorded by the BBC for television way back in the 1960's and the 70's is for all intents and purposes another resounding success. All four priceless documents were thought lost, but this Idomeneo seems to have had a charmed life more than others. Indeed, three days before the Aldeburgh première, the hall was left in cinders and it is something of a miracle that the television production could actually go ahead. First broadcast in May 1970, critics and viewers alike were unanimous in their praise. Sung in English to a version prepared by Maisie and Evelyn Radford, Mozart's first operatic masterpiece is even more telling. A lot of credit should go to Britten himself, who not only conducted with committed ardour, but also prepared a musical edition all of his own. The staging has a classical dignity and avoids austerity altogether and both Pears and Harper give impressive performances. (Gerald Fenech)
Celebrated tenor Mark Padmore joins the Britten Sinfonia in some of the most beautiful English music for voice and orchestra. The centrepiece is Britten's magical evocation of twilight and nightfall, the 'Serenade' (with Stephen Bell, horn). In Gerald Finzi's war-time cycle 'Dies natalis', the ecstatic mood reflects a child's wide-eyed wonder at the world. Britten's poignant 'Nocturne' completes the programme.
This Collector's Edition presents a challenge to reviewers. There's so much of it. I could never do it any sort of justice if I approached this as if reviewing a smaller set. This, after all, comprises 37 CDs. As it is all I have been able to do is to sample, reminisce about known recordings and write around the subject. With this caveat stated, let's make a start.
There are three principal strands of Britten recordings. These are broadly tied into and defined by record companies, artists and eras. First we have Britten recording Britten for Decca.
This Britten recital combines two of the composer’s major song cycles, Winter Words, from 1953, and Who are these Children? (1969). In them he explored themes of loneliness, transcience and war – difficult and harrowing material which would test any composer, but Britten is equal to the challenge. His music works its magic by bringing out poignant emotions and subtle insights, sometimes even more vividly than the texts on their own. The music’s emotional depth is grounded in compelling, quasi-naturalistic sound images, such as the whistling, rattling train in the setting of Thomas Hardy’s Midnight on the Great Western. Providing a lighter note between these gripping works are four settings of poems by Robert Burns, containing some of Britten’s most deft and delicate music. Composed on the request of Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, they originally formed part of a set of six songs for high voice and harp, and were later arranged for piano by Britten’s assistant Colin Matthews.
Released in the Britten anniversary year, Richard Farnes, the Music Director of Opera North who led their critically acclaimed production of 'The Turn of the Screw' in 2010, conducts an all-English cast in Britten’s most ingeniously crafted opera, including Andrew Kennedy, Sally Matthews, and 11-year old Michael Clayton-Jolly in the role of Miles.
A blithely youthful homage, this, to the patron saint of children. The earliest work on the disc, the posthumously published ‘Christmas suite’ Christ’s Nativity, dates from the 17-year-old Britten’s first year at the Royal College of Music; while its two companion pieces, the dramatic cantata St Nicolas and Psalm 150 (joyously celebrated here by the New London Children’s Choir and London Schools’ Symphony Orchestra), although written at approximately 15-year intervals thereafter, still sport their old school ties, having been composed as centenary offerings …….Mark Pappenheim @ classical-music.com
With the arrival of Benjamin Britten on the international music scene, many felt that English music gained its greatest genius since Purcell. A composer of wide-ranging talents, Britten found in the human voice an especial source of inspiration, an affinity that resulted in a remarkable body of work, ranging from operas like Peter Grimes (1944-1945) and Death in Venice (1973) to song cycles like the Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings (1943) to the massive choral work War Requiem (1961). He also produced much music for orchestra and chamber ensembles, including symphonies, concerti, and chamber and solo works. Britten's father was a prosperous oral surgeon in the town of Lowestoft, Suffolk; his mother was a leader in the local ……