Tippett: A Child of Our Time

LABELS: Profil Hanssler
WORKS: A Child of Our Time
PERFORMER: Ute Selbig (soprano), Nora Gubisch (mezzo-soprano), Jerry Hadley (tenor), Robert Holl (bass); Dresden State Opera Chorus; Staatskapelle Dresden/Colin Davis
No one could accuse Colin Davis of repeating himself in his second recording of A Child of Our Time. The conception is more spacious and there are gains in tenderness and tonal warmth. But there are losses too, most significantly the dramatic pace and rhythmic tautness that made his 1975 version (now available on Decca) so compelling. This performance certainly has its moments, such as the angry grandeur in ‘Go down, Moses’, but they are only moments. It takes Davis a while to gather momentum, and he often loses it again. The original team of soloists, including a radiant Jessye Norman, was finer too. Jerry Hadley strains in the heights and his Grand Operatic vocal acting is both stylistically and emotionally out of place, while Robert Holl makes the cardinal mistake of over-emphasising the crucial line ‘He shoots the official’ – Tippett actually marks it diminuendo. The original recording had its limitations, most notably the slight thinness of the orchestral sound, but this is scarcely better. Here the solo team is placed well forward, and the orchestral soloists come across clearly, but the elements fail to blend well. If you must have top-quality modern sound, then Tippett’s own recording (now on Naxos) has that, plus a sense of glowing conviction, despite occasionally vague ensemble. Otherwise, the old Davis disc still leads the field.