I didn't think I'd ever say this about a Britten opera recording, but we have here a modern performance that surpasses the one Britten conducted and recorded back in the 1950s. In every respect this is superior to the earlier album, with one exception: no one can surpass Peter Pears as the evil Peter Quint. Of course the part was written for him. This is not to say Philip Langridge doesn't do a wonderful job in his own portrayal; I guess I've been so imprinted on the sound of Pears's voice that I had some trouble making the switch. But the rest of the cast is simply superior to the earlier one. And this is particularly true in the case of the little boy, Miles, sung here by Sam Pay; he is sensational and easily outclasses David Hemmings (a not-very-good boy soprano who then grew up to become an actor in movies; remember him in 'Blowup' and as Mordred in 'Camelot'?). Pay's final 'Peter Quint, you devil!' is heart-breaking. Also superior are Felicity Lott as The Governess, Eileen Hulse as Flora, Phyllis Cannan as Mrs Grose, and Nadine Secunde as Miss Jessel. Further, the modern stereo sound replaces a rather harsh monaural recorded sound from the 1950s. This is particularly welcome as regards the orchestral sound; in the original recording the chamber orchestra sounded a bit thin and distant. Here the Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble is recorded in clear and lifelike sound. As well as I thought I knew the score, I heard new things in the orchestra that I hadn't known were there. Steuart Bedford, of course, is our reigning Britten specialist. He was a long-time colleague of Britten's, has conducted all of his operas over the years, and was entrusted by the ailing Britten with the première of 'Death in Venice.' This is actually a reissue by Naxos of a 2CD set first published in 1994 by the now-defunct Collins Classics. I'm sorry to say I missed it when it came out but thank goodness Naxos has seen fit to put it out again, as they did Collins's excellent 'Albert Herring' a year or so ago. It, like the recently reissued 'St. Nicholas' cantata, was also conducted by Bedford. One can hope that Bedford's other Collins/Britten CDs, including 'Gloriana,' orchestral music and several song recitals, will be reissued as well. Scott Morrison
This is a wonderful recording of Benjamin Britten's chamber opera The turn of the Screw based on a short story by Henry James. It is performed the Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble conducted by Steuart Bedford. Recorded in 1993,originally on the Collins ' label,now released by Naxos. I am not a fan of opera but this release is tremendously good.On two CDs lasting 53 minutes each , it is so easy to listen all the way through that it is a fascinating experience. The singing by all taking part is wonderful.There are only 6 actors and all deserve credit, including Philip Langridge, Felicity Lott and Eileen Hulse. There are only 14 musicians and it is amazing how Britten uses such small forces to such great affect. The sound is excellent .There is a synopsis of the opera and the full libretto, although the singing is so clear you don't really need to refer to it. All in all a wonderful release by Naxos.I can't praise it highly enough.Even if you think you don't like opera I'm sure this will prove to be the exception to the rule!
Britten's "The Turn Of The Screw" is one of the composer's most sparse and challenging works. The music at times has a steely acidic edge far from the lyricism of say "Billy Budd" . It is as if the composer felt that this tale of a haunting needed a music equally unreal or unnerving. Scoring for a chamber orchestra he acheived that. It needs a firm hand to hold its diverse elements together and it has that here with Steuart Bedford. Bedford worked with Britten in his latter years and led the premiere on stage and recording of "A Death In Venice" when the composer became too ill. He also later made an orchestral suite from the opera. With a first class cast and the Alderburgh Festival Ensemble (which Britten founded) we have a very fine performance of this work at a budget price. It was also recorded at the festival's chief venue in The Concert Hall, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh. If cast and conductor seem familiar it is because this 1994 recording originally appeared on the full priced Collins label. Naxos appears to have taken over the label and more of Bedford's fine Beitten recordings are to follow. Nice to see that they have started off with one of the best.
When I was a touring stage hand with the Welsh National Opera we took our production of this work to East Germany (as it was in 1980) this show scared the daylights out of me. Britten's music is powerful & atmospheric but when I bought the novel it was based on (by Henry James) I was rather disappointed. I'm afraid that I cannot comment on the individual performers or the conductor, but I've listened to it and found it thoroughly enjoyable.