on 26 June 2012
I have listened to different performances of this extraordinary opera, on CDs and DVDs, and there is, in my opinion, no better performance than this one. Not surprising, Britten having always written his music for the soloists who were to perform it. I cannot imagine a more beautiful farewell to Miles (last scene) than the one sung by Peter Pears. The same is truth for the orchestra, conducted by Britten.
The music itself deserves such attentive listening - and one discovers such richness in it - that I prefer to listen to the opera rather than also seeing it, strange as it may seem for an opera.
The complete libretto of the opera is included in the booklet.
on 29 October 2014
Decca have now transferred to CD all their recordings of Britten's stage works, most of them conducted by the composer with hand-picked casts. All were superb recordings in the first place and it is wonderful to have them in the extra clarity (and convenience) of CD. As Sir Colin Davis has shown on Philips with two examples (Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw—neither yet available on CD), there is room for alternative interpretations of these remarkable works, but the first recordings will remain as documentary-historical evidence of the highest importance and value.
Will there, I wonder, ever be a better performance, let alone recording, of The Turn of the Screw than this by the original cast, recorded less than four months after the 1954 Venice premiere? I have heard and seen a good many since, but none has approached it. Christopher Palmer contributes a stimulating essay to the booklet with this reissue, in which he faces squarely all the implications of this choice of subject by Britten as far as what Palmer calls his ''intellectual paedophilia'' is concerned. It is a valid and provocative comment, a useful contribution to the growing body of Britten criticism.
This score is Britten at his greatest, expressing good and evil with equal ambivalence, evoking the tense and sinister atmosphere of Bly by inspired use of the chamber orchestra and imparting vivid and truthful life to every character in the story. As one listens, transfixed, all that matters is Britten's genius as a composer.
Jennifer Vyvyan's portrayal of the Governess is a classic characterization, her vocal subtleties illuminating every facet of the role and she has the perfect foil in Joan Cross's motherly and uncomplicated Mrs Grose. The glittering malevolence of Pears's Quint, luring David Hemmings's incomparable Miles to destruction; the tragic tones of Arda Mandikian's Miss Jessel; Olive Dyer's spiteful Flora—how fortunate we are that these performances are preserved.