Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Nocturne; Phaedra by Ann Murray | 747313219926 | CD | Barnes & Noble
Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Nocturne; Phaedra

Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Nocturne; Phaedra

by Ann Murray
     
 
This solid reissue, one of many that Naxos has salvaged from Collins Classics, presents three of Benjamin Britten's orchestral song cycles: the well-known "Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings," the "Nocturne," and the dramatic cantata "Phaedra," composed in 1975, not long before the composer's death. All three are conducted by the veteran Steuart Bedford, whose feel

Overview

This solid reissue, one of many that Naxos has salvaged from Collins Classics, presents three of Benjamin Britten's orchestral song cycles: the well-known "Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings," the "Nocturne," and the dramatic cantata "Phaedra," composed in 1975, not long before the composer's death. All three are conducted by the veteran Steuart Bedford, whose feel for Britten's music is unsurpassed, and sung with great insight by Philip Langridge and Ann Murray. Langridge's "Serenade" is penetrating, and in most ways it surpasses the now aged recording that Peter Pears made with the composer conducting: there is more expressive variety, and Britten's musical gestures are brought into stronger relief than they were with Pears' occasionally lackadaisical delivery. The frenzied runs on "excellently bright" that close Ben Jonson's "Hymn" are both clearer and more motivated in Langridge's hands, just as slower songs like "Elegy" are more sustained, and therefore more serious. The only important flaw is Langridge's audible struggles with the unforgivingly high repeated phrases of "Dirge," which leave him sounding ragged and pushed beyond his limits. Frank Lloyd's virtuosic horn playing is an instant reminder that the serenade was composed as much for the great horn player Dennis Brain as it was for Peter Pears. Lloyd manages the deliberate mis-tunings, the extremes of range and volume, and the evocative role assigned to the instrument with a flair and technical precision that belies its difficulty, and he deserves a lot of credit for the success of the performance overall. Although written 15 years later, the "Nocturne" pairs nicely with the "Serenade" and is often viewed as a companion piece. The musical language is thornier, more complicated, and more motivically integrated than that of the "Serenade," but as done here by Langridge and Bedford it is similarly evocative and poetically astute. Langridge is especially good at walking the line between speech inflection and purely musical gesture that can make Britten's music sound awkward in the wrong hands. The instrumental soloists from the Northern Sinfonia, a different instrument for each song, are universally excellent. Ann Murray's performance of "Phaedra," a dramatic cantata originally composed for Janet Baker, rounds out the program. It is the most challenging work on the program, and Naxos has dealt it a serious blow by omitting (apparently by accident?) the printed text from the booklet, which does include texts for both the "Serenade" and the "Nocturne." Murray's diction is excellent, and her dramatic instincts are true, but the higher tessitura of the female voice and the often sustained syllables make understanding the words a prohibitive challenge. It's a shame when a lapse in packaging can undercut such an otherwise excellent performance -- one that captures Murray in very good form, too.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/22/2005
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313219926
catalogNumber:
8557199
Rank:
233710

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Serenade, for tenor, horn & strings, Op. 31  - Benjamin Britten  - Steuart Bedford  - William Blake  - Charles Cotton  -  English Chamber Orchestra  - Ben Jonson  - John Keats  - Philip Langridge  - Frank Lloyd  - Alfred Lord Tennyson  - David Inshaw
  2. Nocturne, for tenor, 7 instruments & strings, Op. 60  - Benjamin Britten  - William Shakespeare  - Steuart Bedford  - Alan Fearon  - David Haslam  - John Keats  - Philip Langridge  - Thomas Middleton  - Wilfred Owen  - Robert Plane  - Stephen Reay  - Christina Rhys  - Percy Bysshe Shelley  - Alfred Lord Tennyson  - Peter Francomb  - Colin Kellett  -  Northern Sinfonia Chorus  - William Wordsworth  - Samuel Taylor Coleridge  - David Inshaw
  3. Phaedra, dramatic cantata for mezzo-soprano, string orchestra, percussion & harpsichord, Op. 93  - Benjamin Britten  - Steuart Bedford  -  English Chamber Orchestra  - Ann Murray  - David Inshaw

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ann Murray   Primary Artist

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