Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rossini

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Rossini,Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52; Duets, Op. 46/1, 3, 4 & 6
PERFORMER: Heather Harper (soprano), Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), Peter Pears (tenor), Thomas Hemsley (baritone), Claudio Arrau, Benjamin Britten (piano)
The BBC has been a-trawling in its archives again, and this time has landed a catch salty with the air of Aldeburgh in the days of Benjamin Britten in his prime. A new set of issues, called Britten the Performer, includes an irresistible live recital from Snape in June 1968. From the very first notes of the first Brahms Liebeslieder waltz there is something unmistakably English here: Heather Harper, Janet Baker, Peter Pears and Thomas Hemsley bring a sense of bracing fresh air to delightfully uncloying part-singing. Britten’s piano playing is buoyant and at times impish, as though daring himself momentarily to suspend his antipathy to Brahms. And Claudio Arrau, at Aldeburgh for a recital of his own that summer, duets with Britten as though he were having the time of his life. Led by Peter Pears’s slightly arch tenor, ‘Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel’ spreads its wings with effortless uplift. And there’s a rare, plangent solo to relish from Janet Baker in ‘Wohl schön bewandt’.


Harper, Baker and, by all accounts, a forest of potted palms set the stage for four Tchaikovsky songs in which Britten-as-accompanist really comes into his own. His warm, animated bonding with each voice also lights the four songs and duets from RossiniLes soirées musicales. Hilary Finch