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Britten: Peter Grimes

Britten: Peter Grimes

1 Jan 2004
4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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  • Sample this album
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6:17
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4:47
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12
3:24
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13
3:52
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Disc 2
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2:26
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2
1:47
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3
11:41
Album Only
4
5:14
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5
5:12
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4:27
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7
5:22
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8
3:04
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9
6:51
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10
2:23
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Disc 3
1
4:30
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2
8:48
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3
5:01
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4
5:31
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5
2:42
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6
5:07
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7
2:23
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8
4:57
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Jon vickers will have you believe he is Grimes, the brute who abused his apprentices; he is the tortured soul trying to reach his dream of marriage, money and the respect of the Borough. Vickers' singing is in turns coarse and sublime. It's a thrilling and haunting performance, and for that alone this is a CD worth purchasing.

Heather Harper as the deeply moving Ellen - you can almost hear the foreboding in her timbre while she strives to save Peter from the mob. Jonathan Summers is a wonderful authoritative presence as Balstrode. All the supporting cast are on the nail, and added to this you have Colin Davis conducting the ROH orchestra and giving the score its full weight of drama and texture. Inspiring stuff.

If it's true that Britten disliked Jon Vickers as Grimes I can only assume his love for Peter Pears clouded his judgement. This is a Peter Grimes for the theatre and will easily suspend your disbelief.
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Take my opinion with a pinch of salt because this was the first version I really got to know and Jon Vickers has always seemed such a completely plausible Grimes with his strength, anger, desperation, isolation and paranoia - he sounds like he could kill with a single inadvertent strike. The story goes, of course, that Britten hated it, preferring Peter Pears' version. There's so much I admire about Pear's' roles for Britten but it's Vickers for me here.

Elsewhere Heather Harper is a wonderfully warm Ellen Orford and is supported by an excellent ensemble. Colin Davis can be expansive at times but the fire and rage of Act One leaves me breathless. No matter how many versions I hear I always come back to this one. After over thirty years it istill sounds thrilling.
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By Ralph Moore TOP 100 REVIEWER on 13 Jun. 2016
Format: Audio CD
Given that this recording has attracted five star raves ever since its issue - except for the moronic ratings arising from problems downloading or flaws in the CDs themselves - posting "only" four stars is to give hostages to fortune and inevitably invite negative votes and responses. I would merely point out that the star system is devised to indicate a personal response and that, try as I might, I have endeavoured for years to "love it" (= five stars) but as much as I admire things in it I do not, nor do I think it is artistically flawless.

Amid the superb performances from a tortured, very powerful, yet subtle Jon Vickers, an equally nuanced portrayal of Ellen Orford from Heather Harper, some striking individual contributions from such as Thomas Allen as Ned Keene and some really vital playing, singing and conducting from Colin Davis and the Royal Opera forces, there are some pretty geriatric sounding voices playing the minor tenor roles and some unpleasant shouting from formerly excellent bass Forbes Robinson, who takes the Sprechstimme approach too far as Justice Swallow. However, these are minor flaws when measured against the totality of the performance, I agree.

Highlights for me are the most haunting passages such as the quartet for women's voices "From the gutter", the orchestral interludes and of course Grimes' plaintive monologues, which display the typically frightening intensity with which Vickers depicted Grimes. Odd that, given the supposed conservatism of his tastes and views, yet you may hear in his 1993 interview at the Barbican with Jon Tolansky how completely he identified with Grimes and what he represented about the isolation of the human condition.
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Format: Audio CD
I notice that this is apparently the same rendition as is available, twice, from this Website. (?) It seems to be the same performance, so I have given five stars to the first listing, and rated this, second one, the same: not having perceived any difference, I am giving the best rating to both.

Normally, as among Britten's vocal works, I'd choose the inimitable Peter Pears, with Britten conducting. This performance by Jon Vickers, though, while it may not be as vocally satisfying as Pears', provides, far better, the overall effect of the Grimes I think Britten intended, which is to say, it is both more powerful and, in the "mad scene," electrifying. We still have Heather Harper and Sir Colin Davis (well, Britten by this time was not avialble -no reflection whatsoever on Davis!).

All things considered, Britten is admittedly somewhat of an acquired taste. This Opera, one of the truly great of this Century, is doubtless also his most "accessible," work, which is no denegration: indeed, all things considered, it is still Britten's best achievement. After his "War Requiem"; "Billy Budd"; and "The Turn of the Screw", Britten's works are emintently avoidable.

His Ceremony of Carols is superb, but after umpteenth listenings it does pale, as does, inevitably all Christmas Music.

Not a devotee of "modern" music (exceptions available upon request), I can still heartily recomment the works adduced above.
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