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Britten: Complete Songs Vol.1 Import

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Audio CD, Import, July 12, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Throughout his creative life, Benjamin Britten was a prolific composer of songs, producing over 100 settings for voice and piano, in addition to the works for voice and orchestra. His songs for voice and piano of which this is the first in a two volume 4CD cycle - contain settings by poets as diverse as Michelangelo, Hölderlin, Hardy, Pushkin, Auden and Soutar. The earliest songs date from 1922, when Britten was just nine years old. These rarities display little of the mature composer's style, but they are confident and charming settings. Many of these early songs are receiving their premiere recordings here. The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Winter Words and The Poet's Echo represent mature Britten. This survey of all Britten's songs for voice
and piano is a major project, and Malcolm Martineau has assembled some of the finest young singers of our time for this fascinating journey through this important repertoire.

Review

If there's such a thing as an accompanist of genius, it is Malcolm Martineau. --The Guardian
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Product Details

  • Performer: Andrew Tortise, James Geer, Ben Johnson, Caryl Hughes, Philip Smith, et al.
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (July 12, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: ONYX CLASSICS
  • ASIN: B004UVCP44
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #499,714 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
These are discs where the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. For one thing, this (with its companion Vol.2) is a complete collection of Britten's songs with piano. It includes a lot of juvenilia and odd occasional songs which never acquired opus numbers. It is very strict in its remit; we get Canticle 1 but none of the other Canticles which include other voices and/or instruments. We get none of the late songs, such as the Birthday Hansel, which were written for harp accompaniment (for Osian Ellis, in fact) when Britten was too sick to play piano accompaniments himself. And there are none of the Folk Song arrangements either. That said, there is a wealth of material here, some of it totally new to disc - well over 4 hours of it together with Volume 2.

The second great thing in this issue's favour is that it brings together a collection of some of the finest of the new generation of British singers, culled from the Pears-Britten Young Artists Programme and recorded in Britten's own Snape Maltings.

Of course you can probably find more central performances of the major works elsewhere, not least from the singers for whom they were written (mostly Pears, but also Fischer-Dieskau and Vishnevskaya). Nevertheless, there are many first rate performances here and nothing falls below a very high standard. Stand-outs for me on this volume include a fine Canticle 1 (My Beloved is Mine) from Andrew Tortise, really excellent Holderlin Fragments from James Greer (why are they so seldom done?) and a great set of Winter Words from Irishman Robin Tritschler. Ben Johnson is perhaps inclined to make the Donne Sonnets a little over-dramatic, but he sings Since She Whom I First Loved, the real gem of the cycle, quite beautifully.
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