L Berkeley, Finzi, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Purcell, Warlock, Gluck, Lully & Marcello

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Finzi,Gluck,L Berkeley,Lully & Marcello,Purcell,Vaughan Williams,Warlock
LABELS: BBC Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Janet Baker
WORKS: Works by L Berkeley, Finzi, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Purcell, Warlock, Gluck, Lully & Marcello
PERFORMER: Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano)Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4117-2 ADD
There can be no more golden a legend than Janet Baker singing English song; and this latest BBC Legend – a live recital from the 1983 Cheltenham Festival – is, as ever, an invaluable supplement to the artist’s studio and commercial recordings. Here are true classics such as Baker’s performance of Vaughan Williams’s ‘Linden Lea’, her Britten folksong arrangements and her Peter Warlock – all superbly remastered and restored to all but live, real presence.

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At the heart of the recital comes some timely centenary Lennox Berkeley: his WH Auden settings, sung here in honour of the composer’s 80th birthday, and revealing once again that bright re-energising of the poetry’s unique weight and measure. And then Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring. Scarcely has any composer since the first Elizabethans been more intimately attuned to Shakespeare’s sensibility; and Baker herself sings the settings with robust, red-blooded empathy.

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Even the prelude and postlude are remarkable here. Baker’s warm-up arie antiche by Gluck and Marcello are almost unbearably impassioned; and her Purcell (from the Snape Maltings in 1968) is spine-tingling in its ecstasy of alleluias. Baker’s ardent articulation makes less frustrating the lamentable lack of song texts in this otherwise ever-thrilling series. Hilary Finch