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)
"This recording captures the intimacy of the piece; it is as though the listener is in church hearing the monks process past and reliving the story with them. Peter Pears is remarkably moving in the difficult role of the Madwoman, ably supported by singers and instrumentalists alike."Simon Whalley, 1001 classical recordings you must hear before you die
Everything on this CD is receiving its first commercial recording. Armstrong Gibbs's most famous piece is the once very popular little orchestral movement called 'Dusk', which was recorded on our first 'British Light Music Classics' CD. Looking for suitable repertoire to introduce Guildhall Strings into the Hyperion catalogue we asked their programmer, Ben Buckton, to investigate Gibbs's other music. The composer's granddaughter, Anne Rust, told Ben that, for safekeeping, she had sent some scores many years ago to the Britten-Pears Music Library in Aldeburgh where they have remained untouched ever since. Ben's request for 'anything for strings' by Gibbs resulted in the production of a stack of dusty folders containing the handwritten manuscripts. The work on the top of the pile was the Threnody for Walter de la Mare, and it immediately became clear that the journey to Suffolk was going to lead to more than anyone had expected. This is attractive, well-written music in a lighter vein, dating from the first half of the century.
2013 sees the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth and Hyperion starts celebrating early with this disc of two of the composer’s most popular choral works, both with a Christmas relevance. The cantata Saint Nicolas tells the story of the original ‘Santa Claus’, a fourth-century saint whose acts—revitalizing three boys who had been pickled by an unscrupulous landlord being among the more dramatic—led to his canonization as patron saint of children and sailors. Britten’s lively setting is distinctly operatic, full of incident and colour—with the story brought ‘home’ through the use of congregational hymns. The part of Nicolas (here sung magnificently by Allan Clayton, already acclaimed as the heir to Peter Pears and Anthony Rolfe Johnson) is one of Britten’s great heroic tenor roles.
…[an] iconic recording . . . Who but Pears could have intoned "Strange Meeting" with such spectral eeriness? Who has ever matched the furious authority of Fischer-Dieskau's "Be slowly lifted up"? Listening again reminds of just how extraordinary Vishnevskaya's voice was, too: darkly voluptuous with a core of steel. Her anguished cry of "Lacrimosa" has lost none of its visceral power…