- Chansons Françaises (4), for voice & orchestra
- Our Hunting Fathers, song cycle for high voice & orchestra, Op. 8
- Les illuminations, song cycle for high voice & strings, Op. 18
Britten: Les Illuminations; Our Hunting Fathers; Quatre Chansons Françaisesby Steuart Bedford, Bedford
Collins Classics was one of the first of the new wave of English classical labels that started up when the compact disc was first introduced way back in the '80s. Collins brought out wonderfully balanced and nuanced recordings by the Sixteen, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Maxim Shostakovich, among many, many others. Perhaps their finest recordings, however, were those dedicated to the music of Benjamin Britten. Lovingly shaped and deeply rounded performances of surpassing expressivity, the Britten series was directed by Steuart Bedford and the series was an invaluable addition to Britten's own recordings. When Collins went out of business, its absence was most keenly felt. But, as demonstrated once again in this marvelous disc of Britten's orchestral song cycles, Naxos' reissues of Collins' Britten series is most keenly welcomed. Felicity Lott had one of the most ravishingly beautiful sopranos in the early '90s and her performance of "Chansons (4) Françoise" is as innocently beguiling as the young Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, while her performance of "Les Illuminations" is as insanely charming as the young Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly Last Summer. Phyllis Bryn-Julsen had the most coruscatingly brilliant soprano voice in the early '90s and her performance of "Our Hunting Fathers" is as wickedly ironic and as oddly moving as Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment. Collins' sound is now as it was then up close, personal, and very immediate. Anyone who loves the vocal music of Britten will love this recording.
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