Britten: Peter Grimes

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Peter Grimes
PERFORMER: Philip Langridge, Janice Watson, Alan Opie, John Connell, John Graham Hall, Anne Collins; London Symphony Chorus, City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9447/8 DDD
This is now the fourth recording of Britten’s first opera; with a fifth planned by Naxos, Peter Grimes must now be one of the best-served of all postwar operas on disc. So is this proliferation self-defeating? Given that each account so far has thrown its own special light on the work – from the authority of Britten’s own (Decca), via Jon Vickers’s revisionist interpretation of the title role (Philips) to Haitink’s fresh look on EMI (reviewed July 1993) – the answer has to be ‘no’.

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Chandos has an immediate raison d’être of its own in bringing to disc the Grimes of Philip Langridge, arguably the finest interpreter of the role today, who exudes vocal authority, vigour and depth of character. Among the other leading roles, Janice Watson is a warm-hearted Ellen and Alan Opie’s Balstrode is both sympathetic and strong-willed. Elsewhere, there’s barely a weak link:I particularly enjoyed Anne Collins’s obsessed Mrs Sedley, John Connell’s authoritative Swallow and a golden-voiced Ned Keene from Roderick Williams.

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The orchestral and choral contributions are equally fine: neither chorus nor orchestra are exactly regulars in opera, yet they both bring enormous theatricality to this recording, helped by the typically warm, spacious and forward Chandos engineering. This new account is worth considering even if you already have one or more of the other versions. Matthew Rye