A Fine Britten Concert
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/21/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of us who are ardent admirers of the musical works of Sir Benjamin Britten it is difficult to single out one version of either Les Illuminations or the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings as being the best. The choices for the absolutely perfect song cycle 'Les Illuminations' set to the poetry of Rimbaud are made more difficult in selecting whether the ear prefers the singer to be a soprano or a tenor. So most of us just go on collecting as many versions as are released. This particular recording dates back to 1988 and features the Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Bryden Thomson recorded in the Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow. The sound is clean with very quiet surfaces, particularly important in recordings of chamber music.
Felicity Lott is the soloist for the 'Les Illuminations' and she brings her great artistry to flower in these songs. They become very French sounding (whatever that really means...) and if there is a flaw it is in the imperfectly maneuvered downward glissando at the end of 'Phrase'. But everywhere else her sound is elegant - especially in the final 'Départ'. Breathtaking! Bryden's concertmaster gives particularly glowing solos. The 'Quatre Chansons Françaises' are rarely heard early works of Britten but they deserve more frequent performances as they have an irresistible youthful charm.
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, who continues to amaze us with his perfect tenor and dramatic interpretations of Britten today, is the tenor soloist for the Serenade and for once he shares the 'duet' equally with Michael Thompson on horn. But this piece is most notable for Bryden Thomson's timing and subtle coloration of the orchestral portion. It is a very fine recording if not up to the standards of other tenor soloists. But for those who may not know these three cycles this is an excellent introduction, courtesy of fine soloists and orchestra. Grady Harp, June 10"