Benjamin Britten wrote many many songs for voice and piano and we know to few of them. This is Volume Two of a two volume set with a very fine description of the techniques and the history of Britten's gift for defining poetry in music as written in the introductory remarks by Philip Reed. The Songs contained in this album of 2 CDs, over two hours o hauntingly beautiful music, include the following:
Allan Clayton, tenor
Seven Sonnets of Michaelangelo
The Second Lute Song of the Earl of Essex
Chamber Music V
Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano
A Charm of Lullabies
Robin Tritschler, tenor
Two songs by Thomas Hardy
From 'Fish in unruffled lakes'
Nicky Spence, tenor
Three Soutar Settings
Of a' the airts the wind can blaw
Who are these Children?
Benjamin Hulett, tenor
The Red Cockatoo and other songs
From 'Fish in the unruffled lakes'
Benedict Nelson, baritone
O why did e'er my thoughts aspire
Songs and Proverbs of William Blake
Elizabeth Atherton, soprano
Dans les bois
On this Island
The powerful glue that binds these cycles together is the extraordinary pianism of Malcolm Martineau who appears to be the curator behind this two volume set. He provides not only definitive support for his singers but also shows us the brilliance of his phrasing in the exposed parts for piano alone. The singers are all better known in Europe - until this recording begins to make its rounds: Allan Clayton has a mesmerizingly similar sound to that of Peter Pears, Robin Tritschler is an Irish tenor with a bracingly beautiful voice and intensely intelligent technique, Nicky Spence has been called 'Scotland's Top Tenor' and the reasons are obvious, Benjamin Hulett has been hailed by the British press as one of the most promising young tenors of the day singing many of the Britten Opera roles, Benedict Nelson as the only baritone on the recording justifies his prominence as the leading 'Billy Budd' of England's opera houses, mezzo Jennifer Johnston is both a lawyer and a recitalist who is blossoming into the opera domain, and soprano Elizabeth Atherton has won many prizes for her gifts (although of all the singers on these CDs she has the least control of her rather wide vibrato and her enunciation is not clear.
The accompanying booklet discusses each of the cycles and individual songs with great depth and serves as a fine reference document. The recording was made following the Britten-Pears Young Artist performances of the Britten song cycles at the 2009 Aldeburgh Festival. it is a brilliant set of recordings and one that serves as world premiere for some of the songs of Britten's early years. Highly Recommended on every level and released just in time for holiday giving! Grady Harp, December 11