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Britten: The Turn of the Screw

Sally Matthews, Katharina Bierweiler et al; La Monnaie Chamber Orchestra/Ben Glassberg (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

The Turn of the Screw
Sally Matthews, Katharina Bierweiler, Thomas Heinen, Julian Hubbard, Giselle Allen, Carole Wilson, Ed Lyon; La Monnaie Chamber Orchestra/Ben Glassberg
Alpha Classics ALPHA828   105:13 mins (2 discs)


It is 68 years since the premiere of The Turn of the Screw in the Teatro La Fenice, Venice. Britten’s subsequent recording with the original cast – Jennifer Vyvyan and Peter Pears in their prime, the young David Hemmings as Miles, and Britten’s iron grip on its pacing – remains, despite its dated mono sound, a formidable act to follow. This latest recording is edited from three live performances at the Monnaie in Brussels in April 2021, with the 13-player ensemble sounding more forward, and diction at times less clear than in the Britten recording – though fortunately the booklet includes the libretto.

The cast is convincing enough – with some caveats. At the height of a distinguished career, Sally Matthews as the young Governess sounds more mature of voice than Carole Wilson as the old housekeeper, Mrs Grose. As the insinuating ghost of Peter Quint, Julian Hubbard suffers a slightly obtrusive fast vibrato – a  qualification shared by the wild-voiced Giselle Allen as the forlorn Miss Jessel. Young Thomas Heinen is a somewhat subdued Miles but Katharina Bierweiler is a lively, headstrong Flora.

Ben Glassberg contributes a thoughtful essay to the booklet; with a few exceptions, his tempos are marginally broader than Britten’s, but the astonishing variety of invention, texture and atmosphere in Britten’s scoring comes over more vividly in this new recording.


Bayan Northcott