Britten: On This Island; Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo; Canticles I, II & III; Folksong arrangements

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: On This Island; Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo; Canticles I, II & III; Folksong arrangements
PERFORMER: Robert Tear (tenor), James Bowman (countertenor), Philip Ledger (piano), Alan Civil (horn)
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 73995 2 Reissue (1974-6)
These are welcome reissues. Tear’s singing of the song cycles On This Island, the Michelangelo Sonnets and Winter Words and of the first three canticles is better than Peter Pears’s where vocal equipment is concerned, although Pears’s interpretative insights are still unmatched in the Sonnets and he had more sense of fun than Tear in some of the folksongs. And brilliantly as Philip Ledger plays, one misses Britten’s own way with the accompaniments.

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The Hyperion set is valuable above all for its completeness. It should be taken in small doses if you don’t want to tire of some of Britten’s over-decorative accompaniments, but in the best of the arrangements his genius shines through. Of the excellent singers, I would single out Regina Nathan’s enchanting performances of Moore’s Irish Melodies. Lewis Foreman’s notes for Hyperion are exemplary. Michael Kennedy