Britten: The Turn of the Screw

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven/Britten
ALBUM TITLE: Britten: The Turn of the Screw
WORKS: The Turn of the Screw
PERFORMER: Andrew Kennedy, Sally Matthews, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Michael Clayton-Jolly, Lucy Hall, Katherine Broderick, Members of the LSO/Richard Farnes


Even in the far from theatrical atmosphere of a concert performance in London’s Barbican Hall, Britten’s opera makes its usual harrowing impact. That said, the competition is severe – and to measure up, state-of-the-art performances are required in the two main roles.

This isn’t quite the case here. Andrew Kennedy’s Peter Quint, impressively sure and strong in vocal terms, seems to be trying to convey the character’s evil suavity through an applied sophistication verging on mannerism; and his offstage summons to Miles in Act I’s ‘Night’ scene somehow doesn’t convey the sinister allure of the moment. Sally Matthews’s Governess, appealingly passionate and involved, is troubled above mid-volume level by an over-quick and insistent vibrato that too often thwarts the clarity of her words.

The rest of the cast excels: Katherine Broderick’s darker-toned Miss Jessel contrasts well with fellow-soprano Matthews in their Act II scene together, while Catherine Wyn-Rogers’s Mrs Grose is faultlessly secure and vivid. Richard Farnes’s conducting unfolds the opera at a quite expansive pace with no loss of tension, although he allows some over-sumptuous moments from the LSO’s solo team: at the point when the Governess first meets Mrs Grose and the children, principal violin Roman Simovic sounds as if he could be performing Bruch’s First Concerto. At the opposite extreme is the unaffected poignancy of Christine Pendrill’s cor anglais playing, reaching straight to the music’s desolate heart. Altogether, not a disappointing performance.


Malcolm Hayes