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Britten - The Canticles

Timothy Brown Audio CD


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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Canticle I: My beloved is mine Op. 40Ian Bostridge/Julius Drake 7:530.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac Op. 51David Daniels/Ian Bostridge/Julius Drake17:04Album Only
Listen  3. Canticle III: Still falls the rain Op. 55Ian Bostridge/Timothy Brown/Julius Drake11:41Album Only
Listen  4. Canticle IV: Journey of the Magi Op. 86David Daniels/Ian Bostridge/Christopher Maltman/Julius Drake12:16Album Only
Listen  5. Canticle V: The Death of Saint Narcissus Op. 89Ian Bostridge/Aline Brewer 7:490.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Folk Song Arrangements: The plough boyChristopher Maltman/Julius Drake 1:500.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Folksong Arrangements: The Salley GardensChristopher Maltman/Julius Drake 2:400.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Folk Song Arrangements: The foggy, foggy dewChristopher Maltman/Julius Drake 2:400.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Folk Song Arrangements: There's none to sootheDavid Daniels/Julius Drake 1:480.99  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Folk Song Arrangements: O waly, walyDavid Daniels/Julius Drake 3:540.99  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Folk Song Arrangements: The ash groveIan Bostridge/Julius Drake 3:000.99  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Folk Song Arrangements: GreenslevesIan Bostridge/Julius Drake 2:170.99  Buy MP3 


Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

If you were assembling a latterday dream-team for a package programme of all five Britten Canticles, this would probably be it. And 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 colour 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 over-artful 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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten's Canticles - Bostridge, Daniels... 10 Nov 2002
By David M. Key - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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...
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite Singing in Lesser Known Britten 27 Dec 2002
By Christopher Forbes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Amazing Voices at Their Peak 17 Aug 2004
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Benjamin Britten and English as a Musical Language 21 Jan 2007
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Benjamin Britten was a prolific composer who managed to conquer every range of musical writing - chamber works, symphonies, operas, big choral works, song cycles for both soloist and orchestra and soloist and piano, children's works, ballets, works for amateur performers (such as the Church Parables), concerti, and works for solo instruments. There are few composers even today who understood the complexities of the English language as a source of lyrics as did Britten and though all of his works are penultimate examples of this talent, surely the Five Canticles are the zenith of this gift.

The Canticles were composed over a thirty-year period (1947 - 1974) and are a microcosm of Britten's development as a composer and philosopher. The five works are all inspired by religious themes and yet they also can be seen as occult references to Britten's own homage to his sexual proclivity. Here the canticles are sung impeccably by Ian Bostridge, tenor, David Daniels, countertenor, and Christopher Maltman, baritone and the series is beautifully united by the pianism of Julius Drake (with collaboration of harpist Aline Brewer and horn player Timothy Brown). To review each canticle would take far too much space, but at least some mention must be paid to the opening of the second canticle (Abraham and Isaac) in which the voice of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son is intoned by close harmony duet by Bostridge and Daniels: the effect is ethereal and wholly spiritual. Each of the five canticles is successful on every level.

Accompanying the Canticles are seven of Britten's Folksong arrangements and each of the three singers is given time and interpretive flair for each one. It would be difficult to imagine three better matched singers than Bostridge, Daniels, and Maltman - three artists who continue to grow in stature (these recordings were made in 2001). This CD contains some of Britten's more difficult works - but also some of his most sublime. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, January 07
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite! 2 Mar 2010
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Exquisite music, exquisite singing (mostly), and exquisite pianism! But that may be my problem, that everything here is too exquisitely artfully self-conscious. I often find that I expect to enjoy the music of Benjamin Britten, based on his scores, more than I actually do when I hear it. But this is a matter of my own subjective response to the affect of his music, not a solid objectifiable criticism, so let's let it go.

The five "Canticles" are the substance of this performance; the seven 'Folksong Arrangements' are here only to fill out the CD, and I might have preferred another choice. The "Canticles" are structurally more like mini-cantatas than like Lieder, though the piano accompaniment inevitably suggests the latter. They are settings of rapturously (self-consciously?) mystical religious texts:
I - a 17th C verse-like elaboration of a single Biblical line [My beloved is mine, and I am his] written by Francis Quarles
II - a portion of the Chester Miracle Play, portraying the tale of Abraham and isaac
III - a portion of the poem 'The canticle of the Rose' by Edith Sitwell
IV - the 'Journey of the Magi' by poet TS Eliot
V - 'The death of Saint Narcissus', also by TS Eliot
These are all powerful mystical texts, tinged with the erotic fervor of the Song of Solomon or the poetry of St John of the Cross. The words would be musical even spoken in a monotone, so Britten's task was to expand and elaborate their music rather than to obfuscate or obliterate it. To my ears, he succeeded best with the first three Canticles, especially with the second, Abraham and Isaac. The two later settings of TS Eliot seem less in keeping with their texts to me; they roar when they should murmur. Eliot's poetry walks a fine line between banality and rapture -- as he put it himself, between "high sentence" and "obtuseness". Britten renders them too dramatic; the words are lost in the music.

My favorite track, easily, is Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac, both for its musical delicacy and for its poignant representation of the Biblical tale of the father readying his son to be sacrificed as demanded by God. Tenor Ian Bostridge and countertenor David Daniels sing together with exquisite (there's that word again!) ensemble when they incant the command of God, the opening of the text. Then they interface their roles as father and son with just the right amount of dramatization. The music is spare, stark, transparent. Julian Drake's piano accompaniment glistens around their voices like rays of sunlight glancing off the altar.
My least favorite is Canticle III - Still Falls the Rain, a setting of a poem by the modern British poet Edith Sitwell in memorium of the air raids of 1940. Frankly, the text is too literary, too precious, too sanctimonious for the mood of aerial bombardment. The music is smudged, to my ears, by the inclusion of an obbligato for French horn; played in its lower register, the horn sounds bullocky and a trifle stagey.

Perhaps I risk offending someone by pondering the deeper significance of Britten's choices of texts. How far does the erotic mysticism of these poems, especially of the First Canticle, stretch toward homoerotic mysticism? And so what, if it does? Believe me, I'm a disciple of Spinoza; any flavor of mysticism makes me queasy. I raise the issue only because it impinges on the affective interpretation one might expect from the music. Perhaps that homoerotic 'frisson' was always basic to Britten's music. He died in 1976, just at the threshold of gay liberation and openness.

In any case, Benjamin Britten was Britain's strongest, craftiest composer since Purcell or Byrd, and the Five Canticles are among his most inventive and approachable compositions. They offer a kind of aesthetic bridge for listeners, from the baroque and the romantic repertoire of song settings to the modern.
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