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Britten: The Canticles; Ian Bostridge, David Daniels
Ian Bostridge, David Daniels, Aline Brewer
Britten: The Canticles; Ian Bostridge, David Daniels
Genres: Folk, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

If you were assembling a latter-day dream team for a package program of all five Britten Canticles, this would probably be it. With one or two exceptions, it delivers everything you'd want. Ian Bostridge--the most literate...  more »


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If you were assembling a latter-day dream team for a package program of all five Britten Canticles, this would probably be it. With one or two exceptions, it delivers everything you'd want. Ian Bostridge--the most literate tenor on God's earth--was born to sing this repertory, observing subtleties of text and niceties of diction without compromise to the beauty of fine-spun legato lines. David Daniels, an accomplished actor, sings the boy in Abraham and Isaac with exactly the right mix of pathos and restraint. Christopher Maltman provides the vocal equivalent of lithe, young, gym-toned muscularity in "Journey of the Magi" and the group of folk-song settings that pad out the disc. And Julius Drake homes in as if by instinct on what really tells in the accompaniments: a figure here that signals something to the voice, a chord there that transforms the color of a phrase. The two supporting instrumentalists (Timothy Brown, horn, and Aline Brewer, harp) add to the pleasure of it all. Just one reservation: Bostridge doesn't quite have the climactic roar of joy required for "My Beloved Is Mine" or the authoritative weight for Abraham, and Daniels can sound womanly, as well as overartful in the folk songs (although not everyone feels comfortable with countertenors singing folksongs). And in any case, it's not enough to counter the outstanding virtues of the disc. --Michael White

CD Reviews

Britten's Canticles - Bostridge, Daniels...
David M. Key | Denver, CO United States | 11/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A CD of the year to be sure! Another fine example of Bostridge being at the fore-front of Britten interpretations. His singing, as we have now come to expect, is so refined and detailed and full of warmth. The use of the countertenor is another example of pure genius on Britten's part looking back to the vocal spirit of Purcell's 'Golden Age' of Music, and is exemplified in Canticle No. 2 'Abraham and Isaac.' The Canticles are masterpieces in their own right and the combination of Bostridge, Daniels and Maltman confirms their exquisite splendor throughtout.
The CD ends with a collection of very fine Folksong Arrangements from the 'British Isles' with excellent singing from all: Ian Bostridge~tenor, David Daniels~countertenor, Christopher Maltman~baritone and not to mention very fine intrumental playing from Timothy Brown~horn, Aline Brewer~harp and the wonderful Julius Drake~piano.
A highly anticipated CD and well worth adding to the collection..."
Exquisite Singing in Lesser Known Britten
Christopher Forbes | Brooklyn,, NY | 12/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This may be the vocal CD of the year. Bostridge, Daniels and Maltman sing this repertoire with all of the conviction of the original London recordings. And the Canticles themselves are pinnacles of Britten's vocal art.Neither art songs nor operatic scena, in the Canticles Britten fashions his own vocal form, based in part on the extended Baroque solo cantata as realized by Purcell. Each Canticle is based on a poem with religious overtones, and set with sensitivity to the prosody and shades of meaning conveyed by the poet. The first Canticle, set to a parody of the Song of Songs by Anglican poet Frances Quarles, is fashioned in the most Purcellian manner of the Canticles, complete with Baroque devices like the canon and the ground bass. Each stanza is given a different form, almost like a suite, though unified by melodic material. The second stanza is a setting of the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Chester Miracle plays for tenor and countertenor (originally for alto, the tendency now is to use countertenor.) The work is dramatic, a mini-scena with many sections forcasting a very different setting of this story in the War Requiem. Canticle III is composed for tenor and horn and uses the very beautiful Sitwell poem, Still Falls the Rain. Britten's music matches the deep pathos of the poem. The final two Canticles use poetry by T.S. Eliot. They are in Britten's late style, tonal and yet austere and richly dissonant. Canticle V in particular has overtones of the music Britten would use for his final operatic masterpiece, Death in Venice. The performances on this CD are stupendous. Ian Bostridge is probably the finest interpreter of English art song alive today. His attention to diction, nuance of text, beauty of tone and intelligence make these for me even better than the marvelous Peter Pears performances of these works. David Daniels is the finest countertenor working today. His tone is honey-sweet but never weird or cloying as Alfred Deller could be. And he strikes the perfect tone as Isaac, both childlike and saintly. Maltman too is in fine form in Canticle IV. The instrumentalists are also superb. Special mention goes to Julius Drake, who is a technically brilliant and sensitive accompanist in music that sounds simple but is deceptively tricky. The disc is rounded out by several of Britten's beautiful settings of English folk songs. A marvelous way to end a truly spectacular vocal disc."
Three Amazing Voices at Their Peak
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 08/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With tones alternately dream-like and discordant, Benjamin Britten could certainly write music that can challenge as well as soothe, and his five canticles are no exception. Amazingly, he wrote these canticles over a 26-year period, the first in 1947 and the last in 1973 near his death, yet in spite of each canticle's individuality, they feel very much like parts of a whole. The two longest canticles, "Abraham and Isaac" (Canticle 2) and "Journey of the Magi" (Canticle 4, based on the poem by T.S. Eliot), are the most dramatically effective. Canticle 2 is especially moving because of the touching story it tells of the sacrifice of the child Isaac for his father Abraham only to be spared at the last minute. Canticle 4 provides an emotional retelling of the Three Kings' journey to the Christ child heightened by the immaculate blending of the three distinct voice types. It is no coincidence that countertenor David Daniels plays a prominent role in both as he is a highly skilled and versatile actor when it comes to playing a king or evoking the pleas of an innocent child. The voice, of course, is unparalleled. Tenor Ian Bostridge sings prominently on all five canticles and does quite well throughout, in particular, with his diction and tone. He is called on to exhibit a wide variety of emotions, and he rises to the challenge despite the towering shadow of Peter Pears.

The last twenty minutes of the disc are devoted to a wide array of English folk songs, and this is where each singer gets an opportunity to shine in solo turns. In particular, baritone Christopher Maltman does a fine job on "The Plough Boy" and "The Salley Gardens". Although Britten is not for everyone's taste, this is a beautifully realized recording with three great singers at their peak, and special mention needs to go to pianist Julius Drake who accompanies with great skill.