Peter Pears

Tenor

Peter Pears

Born in Farnham in 1910, Pears was educated at Lancing College, Keble College and the Royal College of Music. Whilst working with the BBC Singers in the mid-1930s he met Benjamin Britten, who would become his lifelong partner: the pair initially collaborated as lieder recitalists, emigrating to America together conscientious objectors shortly before hostilities broke out in 1939.

Although he was a renowned interpreter of Bach and Schubert, Pears is perhaps best remembered as Britten's muse: Britten wrote many of his song-cycles for his distinctive, rather dry-sounding tenor, and almost all of his operas contain a role written especially for him. Works written with Pears in mind include the War Requiem, Serenade, Nocturne and Canticles and the operas Albert Herring, The Turn of the Screw, Billy Budd, Death in Venice, and - most famously - Peter Grimes.

Pears was made a CBE in 1955 and was knighted two decades later. He died in 1986 and is buried next to Britten in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul's, Aldeburgh.

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Rostropovich & Britten

Rostropovich & Britten

Recorded live at the 1961 Aldeburgh Music Festival - Previously unpublished


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV41 'Jesu, nun sei gepreiset': Woferne du den edlen Frieden

Peter Pears (tenor)

Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV1009

Britten:

Sonata for cello and piano in C major, Op. 65

(world premiere)

Sonata for cello and piano in C major, Op. 65: V. Moto perpetuo: Presto

(encore)

Sonata for cello and piano in C major, Op. 65: IV. Marcia. Energico

(encore)

Debussy:

Cello Sonata

Schubert:

Sonata in A minor 'Arpeggione', D821

Schumann:

Stücke im Volkston (5), Op. 102


This recital at the Jubilee Hall on 7 July 1961 began with Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata, which Rostropovich had learnt at Britten’s behest. Anyone who knows the studio version which the duo made for Decca in 1968 will find this performance a revelation.

In the case of Britten’s Cello Sonata, the famous Decca recording was made a mere two weeks later and resulted in a definitive performance. Nevertheless, hearing how these two great musicians approached the work in its first performance is of much more than academic interest. The Dialogo starts and ends in elfin mood and is full of fantasy. The sense of fantasy also inhabits the Scherzo-Pizzicato, where Britten adds superb filigree playing to Rostropovich’s pizzicati: the magical effect brings us close to the fairies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, premièred at Aldeburgh the previous year [and now available on Testament SBT2 1515]. The Elegia is the heart of the Sonata, distilling some half-remembered sadness with lovely tone from Rostropovich and great intensity from both players. The Marcia is like a manic dance-scherzo, with both artists calling on their reserves of colour and the concluding Moto perpetuo – which incorporates Shostakovich’s DSCH motif – is like a fantastic chase. The next two works were also successfully recorded for Decca, at the same sessions as the Britten Sonata. In the concert Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style are played with great character and the duo get right inside Debussy’s Sonata: in both works Britten rises to the challenge of matching Rostropovich’s intense virtuosity, so that the outcome is exhilarating. At the end of the recital they encore the Marcia of the Britten, making it even more bizarre than before and then there is the sort of surprise ending that Rostropovich loved. On the previous night Peter Pears joins the two instrumentalists for a beautiful performance of the tenor aria with cello obbligato, ‘Woferne du den edlen Frieden’, from Bach’s Cantata BWV.41. His appearance emphasises the family nature of the Aldeburgh Festival in those days, and indicates that the Rostropoviches have already been admitted to the magic circle.

As a substantial further bonus, we have one of the two Bach Suites that Rostropovich played in the Parish Church three days earlier – the other seems not to have survived. The cellist did not make a studio recording of the complete Suites until very late in his career, when aspects of his interpretations, especially the Minuets,Bourrées and Gavottes, had become rather heavy. Tully Potter 2017

“If I had to sum up this recital in a single word, it would be freedom. Every phrase is elegantly elastic, and there's some pleasingly delicate playing by Britten, especially in the final Schumann piece. The range of attack and articulation on offer from Rostropovich is quite extraordinary.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 14th April 2017

“there’s a special sense of occasion in each bar of these performances...The [Arpeggione] has real spontaneity, with Rostropovich bringing a wonderful range of touch and colour to Schubert’s melodies, Britten the perfect, tactful partner...The mono recordings may not be state of the art, even for 1961, but they’re good enough to convey what memorable events these concerts must have been.” The Guardian, 3rd May 2017 ****

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Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex

Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex

and works by Strauss and Kodály


Kodály:

Háry János Suite

Strauss, R:

Elektra (highlights)

Stravinsky:

Oedipus Rex

Peter Pears (Oedipus), Kerstin Meyer (Jocasta), Donald McIntyre (Creon), Benjamin Luxon (Messenger), Alec McCowen (narrator)


Both Strauss’s Elektra and Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex trace their lineages back to Sophocles, the Greek dramatist who lived in the fourth century BC. Both are stories of the avenging of a royal father’s murder, either by surviving family members (Elektra), or by Fate or the gods themselves (Oedipus Rex).

Even from an early age, Georg Solti knew that his greatest ambitions lay in the opera house. ‘From a purely musical point of view, working closely with singers teaches you to make music in a way that breathes – even in purely instrumental music,’ Solti once remarked. In his youth, Solti assisted Bruno Walter, Issay Dobrowen, Fritz Busch and Erich Kleiber. In Salzburg, in 1937, he was rehearsal pianist for Arturo Toscanini. So, by the time he came to conducting his first opera (Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro) at age 26, he knew the ropes, so to speak. According to him, to ‘play rhythmically but softly, so that the singers always feel the pulse but need not tire their voices’ was a crucial factor in being a repetiteur. He continued, ‘don’t play all the notes, but play all the essential notes; when you are coaching an individual singer in a role, take the lead, but when you are playing for a staging or ensemble rehearsal, follow – follow for dear life! I was able to follow the worst singer to hell and back. I could have followed a bird’s chirping.’

Exclusively a Decca recording artist (apart from a few recordings made for Deutsche Grammophon, RCA and CBS by arrangement with Decca), he made more than 250 recordings for the company over a 50-year period: 1947–1997, taking in music from Bach to Tippett. The three excerpts from Elektra (amounting to nearly half the complete opera) are particularly fascinating as this was an opera Solti conducted throughout his career and which he later recorded in its entirety in Vienna in the 1960s with the incomparable Birgit Nilsson in the title-role. Even in this group of three scenes all the essential Solti characteristics are in evidence: tremendous rhythmic drive and an acute ear for orchestral colour and detail.

“the dark sobriety and essentially lyric qualities of Stravinsky’s “opera-oratorio” are freshly and memorably conveyed in this recording” Gramophone Magazine, February 1978 (Stravinsky)

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Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38


Sir Adrian Boult was a supreme interpreter of Elgar’s music, winning accolades and awards for performances and recordings. Boult championed his music throughout his conducting life following the composer’s prophetic words in a letter to Boult in 1920, ‘I feel that my reputation in the future is safe in your hands’.

Boult only made one recording of The Dream of Gerontius, in 1975, of which the Penguin Guide enthused, ‘Boult’s total dedication is matched by his powerful sense of drama…the spiritual feeling is intense throughout’ while The Gramophone Guide ended their review with ‘Boult directs with commendable energy and typical humanity. A document to be treasured.’

This DVD represents the only existing film of Boult conducting The Dream of Gerontius filmed in Canterbury Cathedral in 1968.

The performance features a stellar cast of soloists: Dame Janet Baker, a leading interpreter of The Angel in The Dream of Gerontius, who recorded the role twice, in 1964 in Sir John Barbirolli’s famous recording, and in 1986 under Sir Simon Rattle; John Shirley Quirk who, with Boult, recorded a definitive interpretation of Peter in The Kingdom and about whom Boult said” J.S.-Q. […] was perfection and I don’t think any of the old guard could surpass [him]”; Peter Pears, who recorded the work in 1972 under the direction of his close friend Benjamin Britten.

The film uses the original BBC master which is far superior to the poor copies which have been in circulation over the years.

This was the first classical music production filmed in colour, for which Brian Large, “an understanding musician as well as a brilliant producer” in Boult’s words, had secured eight out of the nine colour T.V. cameras existing in the UK at that time. This DVD also features a 60-minute documentary on Sir Adrian Boult as a bonus. This film was produced in 1989 by the BBC to celebrate Sir Adrian Boult’s 100th anniversary.

The booklet includes a note written by Andrew Neil, from the Elgar Society, as well as a long extract from Sir Adrian Boult’s biography in which Boult gave his extended insight on the filming. The booklet also includes the sung text in English.

DVD format: NTSC

Picture format: 4:3

Running time: 100 mins (feature); 60 mins (bonus)

Subtitles: None

Menu languages: English

Booklet languages: English

Region code: 0

Territory Restrictions: None

“[Pears] is, in a word, magnificent. Shirley-Quirk is marvellous, too, in both his roles, and Janet Baker, inhabiting the Angel as only she could, is in a league of her own...the TV sound is remarkably good for its time and the quality of the solo performances... makes this a must-see.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2016

“A very important DVD release for Elgar lovers and admirers of Sir Adrian Boult.” MusicWeb International, 11th January 2017

“Boult’s handling of the Prelude, and his masterly accompaniment – especially to Janet Baker’s radiant final benediction – is so beautiful, so magisterial in its intensity, that it feels as though the score is simply being opened before us, its truths unclouded by any merely human ‘interpretation’…the accompanying documentary is excellent: full of fascinating, moving insights into Boult as man and conductor…a beautifully devised portrait of a great musician” BBC Music Magazine, February 2017 ****

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Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream


Alfred Deller (Oberon), Jennifer Vyvyan (Tytania), Leonide Massine II (Puck), Kevin Platts (Cobweb), Robert McCutcheon (Mustardseed), Barry Ferguson (Moth), Michael Bauer (Peaseblossom), George Maran (Lysander), Thomas Hemsley (Demetrius), Marjorie Thomas (Hermia), April Cantelo (Helena), Forbes Robinson (Theseus), Johanna Peters (Hippolyta), Owen Brannigan (Bottom), Norman Lumsden (Quince), Peter Pears (Flute), David Kelly (Snug), Edward Byles (Snout), Joseph Ward (Starveling)

English Opera Group Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

World premiere, recorded in the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, 11 June 1960 First ever release.

At first glance, Britten’s discography of his own operas leaves little to be desired. His recorded legacy covers practically his entire output in recordings under his own direction, with his favourite artists, produced to still-legendary standards. And yet, as magnificent as the official recordings are, many do not feature the singers who created important roles; and sometimes even when the interpretations do come from the source the published versions are from a few crucial years downstream. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. It was composed at breakneck speed for the reopening in 1960 of Aldeburgh’s Jubilee Hall, a tiny theatre by operatic standards, seating just over 300. It would soon move to the rather more capacious Covent Garden (and for that matter within the following year to Hamburg, Zurich, Berlin, Pforzheim, Milan, Vancouver, Gothenburg, Edinburgh, Schwetzingen and Tokyo) – finally reaching a commercial recording in 1966 under very different circumstances from those in which it was created. Perhaps the greatest single asset of the 1960 recording, though, is the chance to hear Alfred Deller’s very earliest performance as Oberon. Deller’s inclusion in the cast was one of Britten’s most original inspirations: nowadays counter-tenor roles are an essential part of the operatic palette in old and new music alike and gifted singers to sing them are plentiful, but just a few decades ago a counter-tenor was an exotic beast indeed. Sir Michael Tippett wrote of first hearing Deller’s voice: ‘In that moment the centuries rolled back’. For us, half a century and more already rolls back when we hear Deller in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Deller’s voice is ironically now a historical phenomenon in itself.

Britten’s own interpretation of the opera would broaden over the years. Here the ink on the score is barely dry and some passages are unforgettably urgent: Oberon and Tytania’s opening duet has a compelling sweep, and the Act II quarrel of the lovers has an extra tinge of danger. The glorious choruses which end the second and third acts would certainly be given more time in later performances, but not always either to their benefit or to the advantage of the whole: ‘On the ground, sleep sound’ is all the more poignant if it, as here, never becomes static, and Puck’s epilogue can sound a little tacked-on if ‘Now until the break of day’ is allowed to wallow. Fortunately, there is no need to choose. We are all the richer for having two such distinct approaches to the opera in its early history at our disposal and since they both come direct from the composer himself, perhaps the not always helpful concept of a ‘definitive recording’ can usefully be called into question.

“The cast play as an ensemble with remarkable detail. Alfred Deller, especially, is in excellent voice as Oberon...though the playing is not immaculate, Britten leads his forces with tremendous rhythmic verve – even more than on the Decca recording.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2016

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Puccini: Turandot

Puccini: Turandot


Joan Sutherland (Turandot), Luciano Pavarotti (Calaf), Montserrat Caballé (Liù), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Timur), Tom Krause (Ping), Pier Francesco Poli (Pang), Piero De Palma (Pong), Peter Pears (L'imperatore Altoum), Sabin Markov (Un mandarino)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, John Alldis Choir, Zubin Mehta

“Sutherland gives an intensely appealing interpretation, while Pavarotti gives a performance equally imaginative. Mehta directs a gloriously rich and dramatic performance. Still the best-sounding Turandot on CD.” Penguin Guide

“this recording...works for me on every level. Of course you get Pavarotti singing Nessun dorma at his lyrical best, but more importantly than that, Montserrat Caballé sings Liù, showing off her famed pianissimo to great effect at the end of Signore, ascolta. Finally, as a bonus bit of luxury casting, Peter Pears takes the small role of Turandot's father, Emperor Altoum.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, July 2014

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Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66

Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66

world premiere recording

recorded live at Coventry Cathedral, May 1962


Heather Harper (soprano), Peter Pears (tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Melos Ensemble, Coventry Festival Choir, Boys of Holy Trinity, Leamington and Holy Trinity, Stratford, Meredith Davies (CBSO), Benjamin Britten (Melos)

This performance is the World Premiere of the Britten War Requiem to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral.

Hearing History

‘The first performance created an atmosphere of such intensity that by the end I was completely undone; I did not know where to hide my face,’ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau wrote in his autobiography of the War Requiem premiere. ‘Dead friends and past suffering arose in my mind.’ Fischer-Dieskau was a somewhat gruff, paternalistic character of whom Britten would grow wary, but he perfectly captured the emotional intensity of the occasion. Nor was he exaggerating: a few days after the first performance on 30 May Britten wrote to a friend about how Peter Pears had to help Fischer-Dieskau from his seat at the concert’s end. By the time of this letter the ripples from the premiere had travelled far and the profound impact of the work was quickly acknowledged in reviews and correspondence. Yet even Britten was caught unawares by the public resonances of the piece and the emotional responses it inspired.

The commissioners gave Britten a remarkably broad brief. ‘The new work they seek could be full length or a substantial 30/40 minutes one: its libretto could be sacred or secular.’ Britten opted for both sacred and secular, which gave him the opportunity to undermine the former with the latter. He had been thinking about such a piece for a few years, telling a friend in January 1957, ‘I am just starting a Mass myself, a rather sad 20th century, European, affair.’ Typically Britten’s big compositions were some years in the making. Usually at least the librettist, story or poems were pinned down early on, but in the case of this sad mass, Britten had not yet established the form it would take. By the time he thought of his bold scheme to juxtapose Owen’s bitter take on Judeo-Christian beliefs and the Old Men of church and state who shrouded themselves in these beliefs as they marched young men off to war, Britten was wracked with the sort of uncertainty that governed all his major works. ‘I go on working at the Coventry piece,’ he told director Basil Coleman in 1961, a month or so before finishing it. ‘Sometimes it seems the best ever, more often the worst – but it is always so with me.’

Extracts from the note by Paul Kildea

“Taken from a BBC recording, this single CD preserves the historic first performance in all its messy glory...[Harper] is at her peak, all gleaming beauty and commanding authority; and Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, both in fine voice, match each other in the kind of singing of which history is made.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2013

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Britten Centenary

Britten Centenary


Britten:

Simple Symphony, Op. 4

Rec.1959

I Musici, Felix Ayo

Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a

Rec.1958

Royal Opera House Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

Spring Symphony, Op. 44

Jennifer Vyvyan (soprano), Norma Procter (contralto) & Peter Pears (tenor)

Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden & Chorus of Boys from Emanuel School, Wandsworth, London


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The Voice of Peter Pears

The Voice of Peter Pears


Berkeley, L:

How Love Came In

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Bridge:

Love went a-riding

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Britten:

The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Op. 35

Benjamin Britten (piano)

The Plough Boy

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Campion:

Shall I come, sweet love, to thee?

Julian Bream (guitar)

Copland:

Long Time Ago

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Simple Gifts (from Old American Songs, Set I)

Benjamin Britten (piano)

I Bought me a Cat

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Dowland:

I saw my Lady weepe

Julian Bream (guitar)

What if I never speed?

Julian Bream (guitar)

Ford, T:

Faire, sweet, cruell

Julian Bream (guitar)

Grainger:

Six Dukes Went a-Fishin'

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Ireland:

I Have Twelve Oxen

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Moeran:

In youth is pleasure

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Morley:

It was a lover and his lass

Julian Bream (guitar)

Rosseter:

What then is love but mourning?

Julian Bream (guitar)

Schubert:

Im Frühling, D882

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Auf der Bruck, D853

Benjamin Britten (piano)

An die Laute D905

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Die Taubenpost, D965A (D957 No. 14)

Benjamin Britten (piano)

Warlock:

Yarmouth Fair

Benjamin Britten (piano)


Peter Pears (tenor)

“these early recordings show the delight within Pears's and Britten's responses to Schubert and to English song.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2013 ****

“The recordings reissued on this release date from the years between 1947 and 1960, at a time when the mannerisms which unfortunately sometimes marred Pears’s later recordings were not so evident...These recordings are all available elsewhere in various compilations of Pears’ art, but it is valuable to have them gathered on this very reasonably priced disc.” MusicWeb International, 19th June 2013

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Benjamin Britten conducts Mozart & Britten

Benjamin Britten conducts Mozart & Britten

Fairfield Halls, Croydon, London, 20th December 1964


Britten:

Nocturne, Op. 60 for tenor, obbligato instruments and strings

Peter Pears (tenor)

Mozart:

Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550


‘The point of Britten’s conducting was never how he looked when doing it; instead it was about the sheer musicality he brought to the task…’

(Paul Kildea). The revelatory films presented on this DVD feature Britten with his favoured English Chamber Orchestra performing at two very different times of his life, with equal value.

Filmed at Christmas 1964, the main programme of Mozart’s Symphony No.40 and Britten’s own Nocturne shows a man in his prime. The Mozart was a particular favourite of Britten’s and his admiration for it certainly comes across in the performance. This DVD release is a major addition to his discography as the symphony was previously only available on LP.

The footage is modern in its approach and captures Britten close-up in a way that had not been seen before.

In the Nocturne, we see and hear Peter Pears in fresh voice, performing one of many pieces that were written for him, and which Britten and Pears had recorded four years previously. With this DVD we are able to see the closeness between composer and performer. An original review of the piece in Gramophone comments:

‘I cannot think of any settings of English words more imaginative than these of Britten’s.’

The bonus is a colour film from mid-1970, with Britten at home in Snape Maltings for a gala re-opening of the concert hall, performing Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony. The physical difference is clear to see, though all his trademarks are still in evidence and the quality of the music remains undiminished. It is of particular interest as it is the only known recording of this work with Britten.

This is the first release of this material on DVD.

Sound format: Enhanced Mono

DVD format: NTSC

Picture format: 4:3

Running time: 67’

Subtitles: n/a

Menu languages: English

Booklet languages: E/F/G

Region code: 0

Territory Restrictions: None

“from the very opening bars of the Mozart it's evident that the conductor is absolutely in control, delivering wonderfully instinctive melodic phrasing, and inspiring the English Chamber Orchestra to project tremendous rhythmic exhilaration in the Finale. The performance of the Nocturne is no less enthralling, with Peter Pears in excellent voice.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2013 ****

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Britten Rarities

Britten Rarities


Britten:

Voices for Today, Op. 75

First release on CD

Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus & Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Sir David Willcocks

Songs from "Friday Afternoons", Op. 7

First release on CD

John Hahessy (boy alto) & Benjamin Britten (piano)

The birds

John Hahessy (boy alto) & Benjamin Britten (piano)

Corpus Christi Carol

John Hahessy (boy alto) & Benjamin Britten (piano)

Canticle II - Abraham & Isaac Op. 51

Norma Procter (contralto), Peter Pears (tenor) & Benjamin Britten (piano)

A Charm of Lullabies for mezzo-soprano and pianoforte, Op. 41 (1947)

First release on CD

Pamela Bowden (contralto) & Peter Gellhorn (piano)

Bottom’s Dream (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Sir Geraint Evans (baritone)

L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet

The Sword in the Stone

First release on CD

Terence Hanbury White (narrator)

Orchestra, Walter Goehr

Purcell:

Music for a while, Z583

arr. Tippett. First release on CD

Pamela Bowden (contralto) & Peter Gellhorn (piano)

From Rosy Bow'rs (from Don Quixote)

First release on CD

Pamela Bowden (contralto) & Peter Gellhorn (piano)


This collection brings together rarities and surprises from the Decca/Argo Britten discography, a collection notable as much for the infrequency with which much of this music is performed, as it is for the fact that many of these are world-premiere recordings of Britten’s music. The source material itself is extremely rare and virtually every recording represented here is, in its LP/EP format, a collector’s item, largely from the Argo catalogue. The all-vocal program opens with Voices for Today which Britten wrote to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. His devotion to excellent music for children is represented by a collection of songs, including five from Friday Afternoons and sung by the boy alto John Hahessy. It was Hahessy who was chosen over Norma Procter to sing the alto part in Britten’s Canticle II ‘Abraham and Isaac’. The earlier Procter/Pears/Britten version, recorded in 1957 but not released at the time in favour of the Hahessy recording; it is included on this collection. In later years, it was perhaps inevitable that other British singers would be compared with those who created and inspired Britten’s work, notably Ferrier, particularly after her early death. Pamela Bowden was one of those singers: she studied with Ferrier’s teacher, Roy Henderson, in London, and was hailed as the singer’s successor. She is represented by A Charm of Lullabies and it seemed sensible to include the remainder of the music on her original EP – two songs by Purcell – as bonus tracks for this release. A rare spoken-word appearance is made by author (and speaker) T.H. White, who reads an extract from his book The Sword in the Stone to an accompaniment of Britten’s music.

“Britten's underrated United Nations anthem Voices for Today makes it onto disc at last, together with vintage recordings of artists the composer chose to work with.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2012 ****

“Britten's songs were written in 1947 for Nancy Evans, and it might be thought that they need rather more mezzo than contralto tone. But Miss Bowden sings them with no apparent strain, and her characterisation of each one is [very] successful … Her voice is not yet as opulent as Kathleen Ferrier's, but her dramatic sense is possibly more developed.” Gramophone Magazine (A Charm of Lullabies, Purcell)

“John Hahessy has a splendid strong tone, almost brassy in forte, and a blessedly unaffected style: none of those cautious hoots and beautifully modulated vowels that are the bane of the English choirboy tradition. What is more he evidently has a real natural musicality, to judge by his moulding of phrases throughout this disc.” Gramophone Magazine (Friday Afternoons)

“admirably read by the author, with a delightful mixture of sardonic humour and delicate description. The atmosphere is heightened by the music of Benjamin Britten, which brilliantly sharpens the word-pictures. […] It is all charming and will give great pleasure to young and old, for its story and the way it is told and for Britten's delicate score.” Gramophone Magazine (The Sword in the Stone)

“In advance of Britten’s centenary, a deep draught of the strong wine of his sensibility. The items are mostly first releases on CD, from the margins of his recorded oeuvre...The boy alto John Hahessy is sumptuous in songs from Friday Afternoons” Sunday Times, 22nd July 2012

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