Begun in 1947 after returning to England, Canticles was composed over a twenty-five year period. Some have remarked on the complexities of the score, but to sit and listen to these sublime expressions of love, rendered by the intrepid Peter Pears, is a rich experience. Canticle I, w/17th c. meditation by Quarles, opens the piece with a handsome flowing from beginning to end. Other text sources include Edith Sitwell and Eliot, the setting of whose Death of St Narcissus could be Britten's finest achievement in a huge output of vocal writing. Pears is nothing short of stupendous throughout, singing with intensity and the virginal vocal texture that's his alone. A real plus is the piano playing of Britten himself, proving again what a pianist he was - assured and richly musical, and of course deep in his own music. He consistently enriches a towering score with remarkable pianism! It's just wonderful in every way. The recording was made in three sessions over a period of fifteen years, from 1961-76. If you've never heard this masterpiece, now is the time and this the recording to check out. Burns' A Birthday Hansel, completed in '75 for the birthday of the Queen Mother, is a fitting ending to a wonderful musical encounter. Few Britten recordings do I treasure more.