I well remember hearing the original broadcast. At that time I had not heard the Requiems of Verdi and Dvorak and would not have understood the term 'eclectic'. This just hit me between the ears as a masterpiece and I was very grateful to a lady English teacher who had enthused about the poems of Wilfred Owen and enabled me to hear the words even when they were not very audible. The recording makes excellent use of the rather cavernous acoustic and the solo lines emerge from the chorus in a way entirely missing from the studio version Britten made later. Harper's gleaming soprano voice is a delight. DFD's English diction is superior to that of Pears but both sing like angels. It is obvious Britten knew what he wanted but perhaps a professional conductor would have avoided the occasional untidiness. As so often happens it is a reviewer on Amazon.com who is closest to the mark and I have borrowed his title for my review. Go read it and then order this CD especially if you heard the performance at the time it was recorded when it is sure to bring tears to your eyes.
I originally downloaded this performance from iTunes a couple of months ago and the sound is, frankly, filthy; had I known a Testament re-mastering was on the way I would have held off but ... For that reason, I didn't just jump in and order this since the BBC broadcast is the only original available and the iTunes version more or less renders it unlistenable, however, I had the opportunity of hearing a friends copy last evening and the difference is remarkable..
Testament have done an amazing job, yes, it's very dry mono sound but the voices are faithfully captured and they have done a great job with the sound in general & particularly in the 'silences' where the iTunes download is a mass of loud hiss. The tubular bells at the very opening still sound as though they the are sited right beside the radio mike and are very loud. Pears & Dieskau will probably never be bettered and this recording is a real tribute to Heather Harper who really sounds 'inside' the soprano part; a real achievement considering the short time she had to prepare for the premiere.
This is, then, a basic but reasonable sound record of a remarkable and historic occasion and essential for all Britten collectors.