Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The Rape of Lucretia
PERFORMER: Catherine Pierard, Patricia Rozario, Ameral Gunson, Jean Rigby, Nigel Robson, Donald Maxwell, Alan Opie, Alastair Miles City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9254/5 DDD
Following the recent Peter Grimes from Bernard Haitink, the third generation of Britten opera recordings is now well into its stride. Both of these later works are already available in two other versions: in Britten’s own (Decca), plus a Turn of the Screw from Colin Davis (Philips) and an abridged Lucretia, newly available in the pioneering recording by Goodall (EMI).

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Despite some marvellous individual performances, notably from Jean Rigby as Lucretia (an acclaimed exponent of the role for ENO) and Nigel Robson as the Male Chorus, Hickox’s account of Lucretia lacks the intensity of Britten’s own, or even the mono Goodall. This may be partly the fault of the acoustic, which lacks the bloom that would have intensified the drama and given the instrumentalists more focus. It is a creditable performance, none the less, but not up to Hickox’s best standards. There is, unfortunately, no libretto – just the rather unhelpful advice to apply to the publisher.

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The new Turn of the Screw is on a higher level all round. The cast could hardly be bettered, with Felicity Lott an involving Governess and Philip Langridge mesmerising as the ghostly Quint. The instrumentalists of the Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble are atmospherically recorded and the whole enterprise, conducted by Britten’s former assistant Steuart Bedford, is a worthy counterpart to the composer’s own. The new set is capped by an illuminating booklet article by Donald Mitchell. Matthew Rye