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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soft Embalmer, 23 May 2012
This review is from: Britten: Serenade for tenor horn and strings; Finzi: Dies Natalis (Audio CD)
Mark Padmore is the melancholic voice of today. His Schubert cycles provided particularly rueful and broken readings of already fragmentary narratives. And he has brought the same intensity to his performances as the evangelists in Bach's Passions, in concert, on stage and on record. It is to those strengths, or rather his strength at portraying weakness and woe, that this latest disc plays.

Britten's song cycles fit Padmore's poetic insights well. There's a weary beauty to his sound, which the Britten Sinfonia answers in refined terms. Throughout the opening of the Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, they create an eerie mixture of stasis and silence, while Padmore's flared vowels and lively consonants bring the text to life. Never languishing, chasing Stephen Bell's nimble calls through the 'Hymn', this is a spirited but spiritual reading of Britten's nocturnal postcards.

As the composer retreats further into the dark with his Nocturne, Padmore follows softly after. Floating lines, as if they might break, his incantations become hypnotic, perched on top of rocking orchestral murmurs. The whispered urgency of 'What is more gentle than a wind in summer?' recalls Peter Quint, with the obbligato woodwind adding strange acidic wit. Despite considerable competition - including Pears, Langridge and Bostridge, to name but three - Padmore's plangent tones and acute understanding of the text provide a modern match.

But what enlivens Britten does not translate to Finzi's Dies natalis. The work may share Britten's harmonic intensity, but the calm and sanguinity of Traherne's poetry places it on a more heavenly plane. The Britten Sinfonia labours 'The Rapture' and Padmore's voice feels too rich for Finzi's 'spotless and pure' cycle. Slower and more syrupy than Wilfred Brown's (to date) peerless reading of this muted marvel, Finzi is overwhelmed by Britten's company. No singer could fully bridge the gap between the innocence of Dies natalis and Britten's post-Freudian experience. But even if Finzi requires a more rational approach, the twisted melancholy of Britten's song cycles finds an insightful mouthpiece in Padmore.

[Britten - 5 Stars / Finzi - 3 Stars]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Britten, 5 Dec 2013
By 
enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Britten: Serenade for tenor horn and strings; Finzi: Dies Natalis (Audio CD)
This is an excellent record with performances of two key Britten song cycles that really do tell us something new about the works. Padmore's voice has power as well as sensitivity and he is an extremely imaginative artist. This account of the famous and much recorded Serenade is wonderful: compelling music making! Stephen Bell's horn is excellent and the Britten Sinfonia play wonderfully. Each song is strongly characterised and memorable. With excellent recording quality this could make it a preferred choice - especially for those who have yet to get the powerful flavours of Peter Pears' singing. The Nocturne is even more striking and benefits from really stupendous playing of the obligato wind parts. Padmore's account is very different from the recordings that Pears made - he take far more risks and achieves some delicate and magical things. Finzi's Dies Natalis is new to me. I know it is a much recorded and popular work and this seems a lovely performance but I don't yet feel able to review this performance of it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 31 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Britten: Serenade for tenor horn and strings; Finzi: Dies Natalis (Audio CD)
An extra gift to my Father who is thrilled. Great production
Stunning recording Clearly another successful gift for a man I love
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