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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pears in amazing voice, 1 May 2004
This review is from: Our Hunting Fathers/Who Are These Children?/Still Falls The Rain/ (Audio CD)
Our Hunting Fathers, a piece from the 1930s, reminds us that to be modern you do not have to be contemporary, and that political commitment need not call for any sacrifice of musical integrity nor even of enjoyment.
This wonderful combination of Auden's poetry, Britten's music and Peter Pears' extraordinary vocal agility and incisiveness can be listened to in many ways. Let me get my only complaint out the way early: the CD transfer fails to put across the fluidity of Pears' tone, which is noticeably thinner than on the BBC Classics vinyl version.
Pears catches the sadness and outrage of the pacifist faced with the wanton slaughter of animals by the English aristocracy; but the political allegory with the deaths of the 1930s from Fascist adventurism in Africa is quite clear. And in the melismata and sudden irruptions of fury as the word "rats!" is interjected into the next song, Pears is without equal (rats being Fascists again). In 'Messalina', Pears conveys perfectly the combination of seriousness and foolishness that is the child's grief for a loved thing - her monkey, in this case - perfectly and with perfect empathy. The sheer exhilaration of the hunting song that follows, listing the names of the dogs, carries all before it, until the final slow and deliberate juxtaposition of the two names, 'German, Jew', makes the political intent clear.
Despite the seriousness of the themes treated (should we really be embarassed by seriousness in the age of Posh and Becks?), the music is at all times a joy - apt, energetic, dramatic, sad, humbling, thoughtful - and the performance of such intensity, energy and sheer 'rightness' that it leaps across the 70 years since it was written and 45 years since the performance was recorded as if it was written for today. If only!
The companion piece is well performed, but cannot hold a candle to the first, which must have had the squires sitting up in their chairs at first performance!
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Our Hunting Fathers/Who Are These Children?/Still Falls The Rain/
Our Hunting Fathers/Who Are These Children?/Still Falls The Rain/ by London Symphony Orchestra (Audio CD - 1999)
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