WORKS: A Child of Our Time
PERFORMER: Cynthia Haymon, Cynthia Clarey, Damon Evans, Willard White/ LSO & Chorus/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9123 DDD
Following on from the award-winning recording of Britten’s War Requiem, the same team has collaborated on this pacifist British choral masterpiece which also emerged from the experiences of the Second World War and the events leading up to it. The choral and orchestral contributions are equal to the earlier Britten issue. The orchestral playing in particular revels in the varied sonorities of the music, bringing out more than in other recordings stylistic parallels with the sprung rhythms of the earlier Double String Concerto and the lyricism of the later Midsummer Marriage. If I have a single qualm over the choral singing, it is the occasional indistinctness of words. Otherwise, the balance is perfect and the recorded sound warm and well-rounded.
The performance is badly let down, though, by a couple of the soloists. Damon Evans, for example, may make an idiomatic Sporting Life in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (and indeed would not seem at all out of place in Tippett’s own later operas). But in a work that – despite the insertion of the spirituals – is essentially part of the English choral tradition, he sounds distinctly unidiomatic, with his restricted tonal range and swoopy, pop-inflected melodic singing. Similarly Cynthia Clarey’s contribution jars – she sounds very much a mezzo-soprano and one yearns for a typically plummy, English contralto voice. But Willard White, who can sometimes sound a bit gruff on record, is here in fine voice, and soprano Cynthia Haymon is similarly at home in the Tippett idiom. Matthew Rye