An Incredibly Important and Rewarding Recording
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The re-mastering of the works on this historically significant recording is so fine that they sound as clear and responsive as the best of today's engineering on recordings. And that is a feat! These recordings by Benjamin Britten were made form 1942 to 1944 when Britten was just coming into recognition as a major force in composing, conducting and performing as a pianist. And in some cases here are first recordings of come of his works as well as sole recordings of others. This CD is a collector's treat.
The CD opens with 'Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo' with Britten at the piano accompanying the very young and stunningly perfect tenor Peter Pears, this work bring the first of many Britten wrote specifically for Pears. Pears voice is so fresh and musical that he is able to give these sonnets their full beauty. Following this is a work by Colin McFee and Britten, 'Music of Bali', in which they transcribe Balinese ceremonial music to a work for duopianists. It is atmospheric and stunning.
Britten and Pears then collaborate on British Folk Songs 'The Ash Grove', 'The Sally Gardens', 'Little Sir William', and 'Oliver Cromwell' with Pears enunciating the words so clearly that surely this was one of the reasons Britten's superior reputation for writing for the English language was born.
Britten then joins with fellow pianist Clifford Curzon in the piano duet Opus 23, 'Introduction and Rondo Alla Burlesca and Mazurka Elegiaca', a brilliant tour de force for the keyboard that is at once accessible and yet offers hints at some of the sonorities Britten would incorporate in later works.
The CD is rounded out with the very first recording of Britten's 'Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings' with Britten conducting the Boyd Neel String Orchestra, Pears of course singing, and the famous Dennis Brain as the horn soloist. Not only is it important historically, it remains one of the most successful performances of this now extremely popular work. Both Pears (sounding more fresh and yet profound than ever) and Brain are sensitive to the music and the poetry and the results are a luminous experience for any listener.
This is a true Collectors Recording and is Highly Recommended on every level. Grady Harp, March 06"
Rare Benjamin Britten
Donna | Pasadena, US, Canada | 06/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This early recording with Britten's companion and favored tenor, Peter Pears, lends insight to both artists' work. Britten is a giant and every piece by him is precious"