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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable mementos of 1st Performances, 9 Jun 2005
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Klingsor Tristan (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Peter Grimes/Folksongs (Audio CD)
This is a disc that takes us right back to the very beginnings of the renaissance of English opera. These are the original casts from the first productions of Grimes and Lucretia. (Well, strictly the second cast of Lucretia as Nancy Evans alternated with Kathleen Ferrier in the premiere run at Glyndebourne).
Certainly the performances here have the feeling of coming hot from the composer's forge. Pears at this time was significantly younger than when he recorded the role of Grimes for Decca and it shows. He sounds more of a rough fisherman, less of an urbane aesthete on these excerpts: the voice is fresher, too. Though Joan Cross sounds a touch maternal (Ellen Orford was, after all, a widow), she sings the Embroidery aria quite beautifully. Those of us brought up in the 60s and 70s tend to think of Reggie Goodall exclusively as a conductor of Wagner (with perhaps just a little Bruckner for good measure). But he was Britten's first choice for Grimes and for Lucretia (though Ansermet got the opening gig as he was a bigger name for Glyndebourne). One can see why. He captures the salt sea tang of Grimes perfectly. Despite his reputation for expansiveness in his choice of tempi, there is real thruist and urgency to his conducting here.
And, in the Lucretia excerpts, he coaxes wonderful colouration and characterisation from the small chamber group, fully living up to Britten's imaginative scoring. Pears and Cross as the two observing Choruses are again in magnificent voice (no-one since Pears has ever coped with the thrilling runs and plunges of the Ride to Rome as well). Nancy Evans may not have the richness of Ferrier's unique tones (available on a live performance from the opera's first Tour), but she catches both Lucretia's vulnerabilty and her strength to a T.
Th fill-ups are interesting, too. Pears in younger, fresher voice than his later classic recording of the the Folksongs. And a taste of Sophie Wyss, a voice that Britten wrote specifically for, before he had even met his great muse, Pears.
This disc, then, is a treasure-house both as an historical record and as great performances in their own right.
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Peter Grimes/Folksongs
Peter Grimes/Folksongs by Britten (Audio CD - 1993)
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