Allan Clayton


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Mozart: Zaïde, K344

Mozart: Zaïde, K344

Sophie Bevan (Zaïde), Allan Clayton (Gomatz), Stuart Jackson (Soliman), Jacques Imbrailo (Allazim), Darren Jeffery (Osmin), Jonathan McGovern (Vorsanger)

Classical Opera, Ian Page

Classical Opera continue their series of the complete Mozart operas on Signum with Zaide – a new completion of Mozart’s unfinished work by conductor Ian Page. Composed during his early 20s, Mozart began work on the opera in Salzburg but later left the work to compose Idomeneo, subsequently leaving no overture or third act. The opera is set in a totalitarian regime where a couple have fallen in love (Zaide and Gomatz), incurring the jealousy of the ruling sultan (Soliman).

“Classical Opera’s well-rounded interpretation offers a strong advocacy for the treasures within Mozart’s forsaken opera.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2016

“Page’s performance offers firmness and mastery of tempo … As Gomatz, Allan Clayton brings energy and definition to his singing … Excellent sound.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2016 ***

“Page is the hero here. Drawing outstanding playing, he makes every note and inflexion count, his acute perception apparent throughout a performance that crackles with an intensity never achieved at the expense of obscuring orchestral detail or lyrical warmth.” Opera, January 2017

“A performance of rare distinction, bringing out all the fizz of the music” MusicWeb International, April 2017

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Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

Recorded live at Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, October 2015

Christine Rice (Lucretia), Allan Clayton (Male Chorus), Kate Royal (Female Chorus), Duncan Rock (Tarquinius), Matthew Rose (Collatinus), Michael Sumuel (Junius), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Bianca) & Louise Alder (Lucia)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Leo Hussain (conductor) & Fiona Shaw (stage director)

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

Seventy years after its Glyndebourne world premiere, Benjamin Britten’s first chamber opera is welcomed home with ‘a performance of enthralling emotional power and physical beauty’ gifted with ‘piercingly intelligent, immaculately realised staging and superb singing, acting and playing’ led by ‘Fiona Shaw’s supremely nuanced direction’ and underpinned by ‘febrile playing’ from members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (The Telegraph ★★★★★). The production eloquently and tastefully tackles the difficult subject, which is lent emotional weight by ‘Christine Rice’s grandly sung Lucretia, noble in tone yet tragically vulnerable’, along with baritone Duncan Rock’s ‘forthright’ Tarquinius and the ‘smooth bass’ of Matthew Rose as the caring Collatinus (The Guardian ★★★★).

Running time: 114 minutes

Subtitles: EN/FR/DE/JP/KO

Sound format: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTS

“Shaw’s production resolutely avoids anything approaching sensationalism or prurience...Clayton [is] disturbingly involved and involving as the Male Chorus...Though the focus is thrown onto the two narrators, the Roman characters all come vividly to life: Duncan Rock’s hyper-muscular Prince of Rome is as imposing vocally as he is physically...Rice’s warmly sung Lucretia is all vitality and tenderness.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 22nd July 2016

“Its beautifully acted and sung. Rice wrings your heart throughout and her self-lacerating final scenes have a harrowing immediacy” Gramophone Magazine, September 2016

“The DVD is evidence of a work, performances and a production accomplished at the highest level, each component brilliant and compelling in its own right, but here functioning perfectly together to deliver an effect that is simply overwhelming” Opera, November 2016

“The production, set during an archaeological excavation, packs a punch” Financial Times, 29th July 2016

Presto Disc of the Week

22nd July 2016

Blu-ray Disc

Region: all

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'Where'er You Walk'

'Where'er You Walk'

Arias For Handel's Favourite Tenor


Hark how the hounds and horn (from The Fairies)

Thou like the glorious sun (from Artaxerxes)


Esther: Tune your harps to cheerful strains

Sol nel mezzo risona del core (from Il pastor fido)

Ariodante: Sinfonia to Act 2

Tu vivi (from Ariodante)

M'inganna, me n'avveggo (from Alcina)

Un momento di contento (from Alcina)

Alexander's Feast: Happy Pair

Vedi l'ape che ingegnosa (from Berenice)

As steals the morn (from L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato)

Mary Bevan (soprano)

Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (from Solomon)

Solomon: My fair's a garden of delight

Solomon: Softly rise, o southern breeze!

Solomon: Ye southern breezes gently blow

Samson: Let but that spirit

Thus when the sun from’s watry bed (Samson)

Judas Maccabaeus: 'Tis well, my friends...Call forth thy pow'rs

Jephtha: Hide thou thy hated beams

Jephtha: Waft her, angels, through the skies

Semele: Where'er you walk

Allan Clayton (tenor)

Classical Opera, The Choir of Classical Opera, Ian Page

Classical Opera explore a wealth of arias by Handel and his contemporaries William Boyce, John Christopher Smith and Thomas Arne, all of which were composed for the celebrated 18th-century tenor John Beard (1716-1791). For this recording Allan Clayton steps ably into this role, performing alongside the Orchestra of Classical Opera under Ian Page. The disc also features a duet with Mary Bevan, from Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.

“there’s a guileless beauty of tone in Clayton’s Handel … he is a stylish but not slavish Handelian … led by Matthew Truscott, the string playing is reliably silky, well articulated and quick-witted, with musky obbligato solos from bassoonist Philip Turbett and oboist James Eastway.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2016

“The outstanding young tenor fulfils his early promise...he phrases with immaculate taste and style.” Sunday Times, 15th May 2016

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Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings

Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings


Young Apollo, Op. 16

Lorenzo Soulès (piano)

Lachrymae for viola & strings, Op. 48a

Máté Szücs (viola)

Prelude & Fugue for 18 strings, Op. 29

Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Op. 31

Richard Watkins (horn), Allan Clayton (tenor)

Aldeburgh Strings, Markus Däunert

This international ensemble of crack musicians reveals the next generation’s star soloists; led by violinist Markus Däunert (leader of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra), they deliver fresh and energetic performances of some of Britten’s finest music for string ensemble.

This recording is the conclusion of projects celebrating Britten’s centenary in 2013, at which Aldeburgh Strings performed the closing concert in Britten’s musical home of Snape Maltings.

The recording opens with Young Apollo, a radiant, expressive, characterful and dramatic work, featuring pianist Lorenzo Soulès.

The Lachrymae subtitled ‘reflections on a song of Dowland’ explores the viola’s intensely mellow sonorities; Máté Szücs (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra) is the soloist.

The Prelude and Fugue finds Britten indulging in the exuberant technical wizardry of his youthful period whilst recalling Bach’s sophisticated contrapuntal textures.

To close, one of the great masterpieces of Britten's cannon: the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. The award-winning tenor Allan Clayton and horn player Richard Watkins are the soloists, the latter reprising his role 30 years after first performing it with Peter Pears.

“In Britten’s buoyant Young Apollo Aldeburgh Strings field a greater weight and range of colour that Rattle’s CBSO, making the work sound more expressive and substantial, and Lorenzo Soulès is a dexterous solo pianist…the poetry [of the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings] is sung with clarity and perception…Richard Watkins is commanding as the horn soloists and the Aldeburgh Strings are again a vivid presence.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2016

“These performances by the Aldeburgh-inspired ensemble vividly affirm Britten’s genius...The Serenade finds a mellifluous, meticulous, impassioned exponent in Allan Clayton...Richard Watkins’s “natural” horn is splendidly detuned in the framing solos.” Sunday Times, 1st May 2016

“Clayton pushes his robust but airy tenor in all the right places, eking out the tension in the texts. Watkins is superb. There is vibrant, punchy playing from three incarnations of Aldeburgh Strings.” The Guardian, 12th May 2016 ****

“Clayton and Watkins are characterful and winning in the Serenade, while Szűcs is deeply impressive in the orchestral version of Lachrymae…best of all is Soules in a suitably dazzling Young Apollo, a work we hear all too little.” Classical Music, August 2016 ****

Linn - CKD478



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Insomnia: Aurora Orchestra

Insomnia: Aurora Orchestra



John Winston Lennon / Paul James McCartney (arr. Iain Farrington)

I've been high

Peter Lawrence Buck / Michael E Mills / John Michael Stipe (arr. Richard Tognetti)


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

Allan Clayton (tenor)

Couperin, F:

Pièces de clavecin II: Ordre 6ème in B flat: Les baricades mistérieuses

arr. Thomas Adès

Dean, B:

Pastoral Symphony



arr. Iain Farrington

Allan Clayton (tenor)


Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes

Insomnia is the second Warner Classics album from the innovative, imaginative Aurora Orchestra and its Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon. In a typically colourful themed programme it explores the night, its thoughts and dreams and the hazy space between waking and sleeping. Britten’s Nocturne – with tenor Allan Clayton – and Brett Dean’s Pastoral Symphony are juxtaposed with music by Couperin, Ligeti, Gurney, The Beatles and R.E.M.

While its name evokes the dawn, the Aurora Orchestra has chosen to devote its second Warner Classics release to an exploration of a troubled night – its thoughts and dreams and the hazy space between waking and sleeping. The album carries a striking, but apt name: Insomnia.

The Aurora Orchestra, founded in London in 2005, enjoys a reputation for innovation and imagination as well as virtuosity. Under its Principal Conductor Nicholas Collon it introduced the Insomnia concept at concerts in the UK in 2013. As Collon has said: “A big feature of Aurora’s programming over the past few years has been playing around with a consciously eclectic vein of repertoire that can cover all periods, styles and genres ... We like the idea of an album having some kind of narrative and flavour, which is quite unusual for an orchestral CD. It allows for some interesting and unexpected repertoire to appear together, and to be presented in an unusual way.”

At the heart of Insomnia are two major works: Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne for tenor (here Allan Clayton, described by The Telegraph as a “rising star”) and chamber orchestra, which, composed in 1958, sets poetry by such figures as Shakespeare, Shelley and Tennyson; and the Pastoral Symphony by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean, which was premiered in Paris in 2001. Dean has described his piece as being “about glorious birdsong, the threat that it faces, the loss, and the soulless noise that we're left with when the birds are all gone”.

In typically enterprising fashion, the Aurora Orchestra has complemented these two central works with music from the 18th century – François Couperin’s keyboard piece Les baricades mistérieuses in a new arrangement by Thomas Adès – and from the 20th century – Ivor Gurney’s song Sleep and György Ligeti’s Poème symphonique (written for 100 ticking metronomes!). Joining them are versions of two pop songs: The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ and R.E.M.’s ‘I’ve Been High’. A bonus track, available from iTunes, is Samuel Barber’s gloriously lyrical song ‘Sure on this shining night’.

The Aurora Orchestra’s first Warner Classics Album, Road Trip, was released in early 2015. Featuring music by Aaron Copland, John Adams, Charles Ives and Nico Muhly, it took listeners, in the words of The Independent newspaper, on “an inspired American journey”. The Guardian wrote: “It is an imaginative and carefully thought out scheme, and certainly becomes a highly attractive package when it’s performed with the panache that the Aurora Orchestra and its conductor, Nicholas Collon, bring to everything.” BBC Music Magazine, which gave the disc five stars and named it Orchestral Choice, noted that: “Nicholas Collon’s young Aurora Orchestra has been creating a buzz on the London musical scene with its brilliant performances and its innovative programming. This America-themed disc, very well recorded, will enhance its reputation ... exhilarating ... a lovely performance, fresh in colouring and crisp in attack ... wonderfully atmospheric.”

It seems that, with the Aurora Orchestra and Insomnia, listeners can look forward to some surprisingly enjoyable sleepless nights …

“[Britten's] phantasmagorical and often lyrically haunting [Nocturne] provides an excellent showcase for several soloists in the orchestra. Clayton is most successful in Middleton's 'Midnight's bell', his imitation of various night creatures sounding sinister rather than queasily fey; and the natural humanity of his singing makes the concluding Shakespeare Sonnet the appropriate culmination.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2015

“Themed around sleep and night, Aurora's programme looks like a musical kleptomaniac's horde…if this were any other group you could dismiss it as gimmickry and move on, but Aurora - joined here by British tenor Allan Clayton - are such persuasive performers, such believers in their musical cause, that it forces you to look and listen again.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2015

“[the Aurora Orchestra] has put a tiger in the tank of London music-making...Clayton’s superbly nuanced interpretation [of the Britten] is perfectly matched by the Aurora players’ virtuosity under Nicholas Collon’s direction...[the Brett Dean is] Not easy listening, but a fascinating ecological protest piece brilliantly executed by the Aurora.” The Times, 7th August 2015 ****

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Mozart: Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots, K35

Mozart: Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots, K35

Allan Clayton (Christian), Andrew Kennedy (Spirit of Christianity), Sophie Bevan (Spirit of Worldliness), Cora Burggraaf (Divine Justice), Sarah Fox (Divine Mercy)

The Orchestra of Classical Opera, Ian Page

The first release in a new partnership between Classical Opera and Signum Records begins with Mozart's remarkable sacred singspiel, composed when he was just 11.

The story follows the efforts of The Spirit of Christianity (Andrew Kennedy) – aided by Divine Justice (Cora Burggraaf) and Divine Mercy (Sarah Fox) – to win back the heart of a lapsed Christian (Allan Clayton) as he lies fast asleep. In opposition to these efforts however stands The Spirit of Worldliness (Sophie Bevan), who urges the Christian to forget what The Spirit shows him and to follow her pleasure-seeking philosophies. As Justice and Mercy withdraw to observe, The Spirit of Christianity seeks to win back the lapsed Christian, but will this lost soul be able to resist the temptations of indulgence and short-term satisfaction that Worldliness offers?

September’s release of 'Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots' is the second in Classical Opera’s ambitious 20-volume series (following the release of 'Apollo et Hyacinthus' on Linn Records last year) with plans to release one Mozart opera and one further disc a year on Signum.

Next in the series is a new recording of 'Mitridate', due for release in autumn 2014, featuring Miah Persson, Sophie Bevan, Andrew Kennedy and Robert Murray under the baton of Ian Page.

The second disc in this 2CD set is an Enhanced CD, featuring an exclusive 10-minute feature on the making of the recording. The booklet includes full texts and translations of the libretto.

“Page and the Orchestra of Classical Opera have an unerring knack for making the most out of the young Mozart's characterful music...tenors Andrew Kennedy and Allan Clayton sing with an ideal synthesis of muscular directness and Mozartian elegance...[Worldliness's arias] are both sung with mischievous elan by Sophie Bevan.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2013

“The piece is performance to a high standard, with tenors Andrew Kennedy and Allan Clayton making the most of the Spirit of Christianity and the Half-Hearten Christian respectively. Soprano Sophie Bevan suggests all the pleasures of Worldliness, and soprano Sarah Fox exemplifies a compassionate Divine Mercy.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013

“the relatively small orchestra, clear textures and buoyant pacing convinces the listener that this is no dull oratorio but a genuinely dramatic work...The whole cast are admirable...All sing with clarity and freshness, similar virtues to those displayed by the orchestra, and Ian Page’s pacing is unerringly convincing.” MusicWeb International, 27th November 2013

“The orchestration is already of interest, particularly the accompanied recitatives which have a vitality and dramatic urgency that help imbue some life into the work. But the arias are weaker affairs...Page conducts the Orchestra of Classical Opera and makes as persuasive a case as possible.” Opera Now ***

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Britten: A Ceremony of Carols & St Nicolas

Britten: A Ceremony of Carols & St Nicolas


A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28

Sally Pryce (harp), Katherine Watson (soprano) & Zoë Brown (soprano)

St Nicolas, Op. 42

Allan Clayton (tenor)

City of London Sinfonia, Holst Singers & Temple Church Choristers

2013 sees the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth and Hyperion starts celebrating early with this disc of two of the composer’s most popular choral works, both with a Christmas relevance.

The cantata Saint Nicolas tells the story of the original ‘Santa Claus’, a fourth-century saint whose acts—revitalizing three boys who had been pickled by an unscrupulous landlord being among the more dramatic—led to his canonization as patron saint of children and sailors. Britten’s lively setting is distinctly operatic, full of incident and colour—with the story brought ‘home’ through the use of congregational hymns. The part of Nicolas (here sung magnificently by Allan Clayton, already acclaimed as the heir to Peter Pears and Anthony Rolfe Johnson) is one of Britten’s great heroic tenor roles.

A Ceremony of Carols is a setting for treble voices and harp of some of the medieval texts which Britten loved so much, and is heard every Christmas in cathedrals, churches and concert halls throughout the land. This fresh, sparkling performance completes a thoroughly festive release.

“Layton’s soprano and mezzos affect a purity that sounds “boyish”...Clayton’s Nicolas is more youthful-sounding than his predecessors (Pears, Tear, Langridge), but Layton captures the mystery-play-like drama of the saint’s life story.” Sunday Times, 30th September 2012

“A Christmas disc to savour.” Financial Times, 10th November 2012

“Layton’s singers do project beautifully, and their sheer security makes this Ceremony a gorgeous, invigorating experience...The moment when the adult Nicolas (beautifully sung by tenor Allan Clayton) suddenly reveals himself in The Birth of Nicolas will induce goose pimples of delight in sceptical listeners.” The Arts Desk, 17th November 2012

“The young ladies of Trinity College Cambridge Choir here are pleasantly smooth without becoming unctuously so. Yet neither do they lack ruggedness...Clayton is magnificent” MusicWeb International, November 2012

“Layton's flowing speeds underline the dramatic sequence of the carols...All the solo performances are impeccably shaped and harpist Sally Pryce makes light work of the fiendish accompaniments...Clayton makes the role of Nicolas entirely his own. What a glorious voice!...This is a beautiful and deeply affecting recording.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2012

“The clear-toned adult voices of the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, highlight qualities in the work often missed when performed by the more usual boys' choir...Perhaps Trinity sound too well-behaved to match the boisterous enthusiasm boys typically bring...[though] the gains in terms of technical assurance and expression make this a welcome recording of a well-loved work.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2013 ****

“The ladies of the choir give a polished and fresh performance with a good amount of purity of sound, while Stephen Layton keeps the tempos moving convincingly. Women rather than boys may not be to everyone’s taste but it is mightily impressive nonetheless. Meanwhile Allan Clayton makes a thoroughly excellent St Nicolas.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 3rd December 2012

Presto Disc of the Week

3rd December 2012

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - December 2012

Hyperion - CDA67946



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Britten: Complete Songs Volume 2

Britten: Complete Songs Volume 2


Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22

Allan Clayton (tenor)

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

Jennifer Johnston (mezzo)

Who are these children?, Op. 84

Nicky Spence (tenor)

The Red Cockatoo (Waley)

Benjamin Hulett (tenor)

Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op. 74

Benedict Nelson (baritone)

On this Island, Op. 11

Elizabeth Atherton (soprano)

Dans le Bois

world premiere recording

Elizabeth Atherton (soprano)

Gloriana: 2nd Lute Song

Allan Clayton (tenor)

Chamber Music V

Allan Clayton (tenor)

The birds

Jennifer Johnston (mezzo)

If it's ever Spring again (Hardy)

Robin Tritschler (tenor)

The Children and Sir Nameless (Hardy)

Robin Tritschler (tenor)

Dawtie’s Devotion

Nicky Spence (tenor)

The Gully

Nicky Spence (tenor)


Nicky Spence (tenor)

Of all the airts the wind can blow

world premiere recording

Nicky Spence (tenor)

Oh why did e’er my thoughts

world premiere recording

Benedict Nelson (baritone)

The sun shines down (No. 3 from Fish in the unruffled lakes)

Benjamin Hulett (tenor)

What's in your mind? (No. 5 from Fish in the unruffled lakes)

Benjamin Hulett (tenor)

Fish in the Unruffled Lakes (No. 4 from Fish in the Unruffled Lakes)

Robin Tritschler (tenor)

Underneath the abject willow (No. 6 from Fish in the Unruffled Lakes)

Robin Tritschler (tenor)

The second volume in the highly praised survey of all Britten’s songs for voice and piano. As before, the great song cycles rub shoulders with individual songs, and early works. There are world premier recordings here as well.

Malcolm Martineau has gather together the cream of young British singers, and this second volume will be as eagerly awaited and successful as the first (ONYX4071).

Philip Reid’s excellent booklet notes provide an incisive insight to Britten’s song writing – a form of composition that occupied the composer from his earliest compositions through to his last year.

‘This series promises to be a major addition to the Britten discography.’ Gramophone

“Listening to this music leaves one in no doubt that Britten ranks among the very greatest song composers, blessed with an unerring instinct for matching word to note and the creation of poetic atmosphere, as well as producing some gloriously singable melodic lines.” The Telegraph, 3rd November 2011

“All the singers are supported by Malcolm Martineau's wonderfully characterised accompaniments...Allan Clayton and Elizabeth Atherton give superb accounts of the declamatory Michelangelo Sonnets and the settings of Auden's On This Island respectively, but Nicky Spence seems slightly self-conscious in the Scots dialect of the Soutar songs, and Benedict Nelson doesn't always summon sufficient weight of tone for the Blake cycle.” The Guardian, 24th November 2011 ***

“it is fortuitous that such a range of talented young tenors is on hand...Whoever he is accompanying, pianist Malcolm Martineau is an expert guide. Though other individual recordings may be preferable, this second volume of Britten songs is again greater than the sum of its parts.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2012

“It's good to hear four quite different tenors responding to the song-cycles written for Peter Pears, and recreating each one in a totally distinctive way. Allan Clayton's feisty tenor takes on the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, his voice both heroic and intimate. Nicky Spence's 'Who are these Children?' is the outstanding performance of this volume: he really sells these wonderful settings of the pacificist poet William Soutar, characterising their compassion.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2012 ****

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Verdi: Otello

Verdi: Otello

DSD recording, live at the Barbican December 2009

Simon O’Neill (Otello), Gerald Finley (Iago), Anne Schwanewilms (Desdemona), Allan Clayton (Cassio), Ben Johnson (Roderigo), Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Lodovico), Matthew Rose (Montano), Lukas Jakobski (Herald) & Eufemia Tufano (Emilia)

London Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis

‘an electrifying account ... Simon O’Neill made a tremendous debut in the title-role, giving notice that he is the best heroic tenor to emerge over the last decade’ Daily Telegraph

Sir Colin Davis’s eagerly anticipated recording of Verdi’s Otello is released on the 10th anniversary of the LSO Live label. Opera has always formed an important part of the label’s output – recording concert performances of opera allows listeners to enjoy the drama of a live performance without the problems associated with recording in a theatre.

Among Sir Colin’s greatest triumphs on LSO Live have been his award-winning recordings of Berlioz’operas plus Peter Grimes, Fidelio and Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff. Falstaff was released in 2004 and collected the Grammy Award for Best Opera.

Sir Colin is joined, in the title role of Otello, by one of the world’s most exciting young tenors. New Zealander Simon O’Neill stepped in at short notice to these concerts, making his debut in the role (although he had studied it with Domingo), delivering what can only be described as an astonishing performance. The villainous Iago is played by Gerald Finley and Otello’s wife, Desdemona, by Anne Schwanewilms.

Verdi had retired from opera following the premiere of Aida in 1871 but was eventually persuaded by his publisher to work with the librettist Arrigo Boito. As with Falstaff, Verdi’s final opera on which they would subsequently collaborate, they turned to Shakespeare for inspiration. Otello, which was premiered in 1887, marked a significant evolutionary development in Italian opera and is widely regarded as one of the great operatic masterpieces.

Concert reviews

‘This was an electrifying account of a masterpiece, conducted with an explosive energy that belies Sir Colin’s eighty years and pushed the LSO to the top of its game. Simon O’Neill made a tremendous debut in the title-role, giving notice that he is the best heroic tenor to emerge over the last decade … Gerald Finley was an arrestingly crisp and snakily plausible Iago … Verdi’s great music drama shone in all its power and glory’ Daily Telegraph

‘a performance of Verdi’s opera that had finesse, fervour and glorious lyricism … Such is Davis’s rapport with the LSO and its rampant Chorus that he can unleash greater musical power with an elegant flick of the baton than most conductors muster with flailing arms. Gerald Finley was a superb Iago: insiduously sinister, yet sustaining a wonderfully suave line. And the New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill gave an immense performance … he will make the Moor his own’ The Times

‘a thrilling performance from beginning to end … an evening to treasure; not just for Davis’s contribution, but for an impressive debut from the young New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill. O’Neill mastered Otello’s many moods with a striking musicality and an evenness of tone throughout the range. He will go far, and promises to be the outstanding Wagner Heldentenor we have been longing far … the men, led by Gerald Finley’s totally convincing and committed Iago, were splendid’ Mail on Sunday

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Age has not dimmed Davis’s musical vitality, any more than it did Verdi’s...Davis inspires the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to a performance of vigour and refinement, and it’s for their contribution – and Gerald Finley’s suave, stylish Iago – that this recording stands out.” Financial Times, 16th October 2010 ***

“ everything contributes to accentuating extremes: Colin Davis gets the LSO, in shattering form, to play chords like cannon shots...The two male leads are superb: Simon O'Neill is the most complete Otello since Domingo...Finley's debut as Iago is also a great reading - the most chilling I have ever heard.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2010 ****

“throughout, [O'Neill's] clarion tone is thrilling. But the heroes are Gerald Finley, a supremely malignant Iago, the superb orchestra and chorus, and Colin Davis, who makes the terror and pity of the opera almost unbearably vivid. This is an Otello to rank with Davis’s LSO Live Falstaff” Sunday Times, 31st October 2010 ****

“Finley gives a masterly account of [Iago], his voice seemingly transfigured by the Italian music and language...his singing - firm and resonant - is scarcely to be bettered on record...O'Neill is an unusual Otello in that he is so unequivocally a tenor, with no hint of baritone in his timbre...the playing is alert and sensitive to drama and text.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2010

“Davis’s electrifying conducting keeps the temperature high throughout this gripping performance...Simon O’Neill makes a powerful and confident debut in the title role, well matched against Gerald Finley’s subtle and sneaky Iago...with the additional merits of Allan Clayton’s vivid Cassio, the splendid chorus and superb playing from the LSO, this is a front-runner in the field.” The Telegraph, 12th November 2010 ****

“This is worth hearing for Finley's superb performance as Iago...listen to his chilling account of 'Cassio's dream', or the way he can inflect a single word like 'capitano'...Schwanewilms is touching as Desdemona, and the smaller roles are well taken.” Classic FM Magazine, December 2010 **

“Finley is suave, his experience in Lieder showing in detailed enunciation and delivery of the text...Clayton is bright-toned and much less wimpy than some Cassios; you could appreciate how Otello promoted him over Iago...In spite of the lack of Italianate voices, O'Neill's heroic singing and Davis's unexpectedly fiery conducting still make this a satisfying account of Verdi's miraculous score.” International Record Review, November 2010

“a spellbinding account, thanks to O’Neill, Anne Schwanewilms’s Desdemona and Gerald Finley’s Jago, but above all to Colin Davis’s warm, urgent but never forced interpretation” The Observer, 14th November 2010

“[O'Neill's] is one of the most dramatically sung and exciting performances you are ever likely to hear...his phrasing is beautiful and his top notes really ring...[Finley's] smooth and velvety tone succeeds where many others have struggled in portraying the calculated and cunning aspect of his villainy...The whole performance is exhilarating and it comes very highly recommended.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 1st November 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

1st November 2010

GGramophone Awards 2011

Finalist - Opera

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2010

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Summer Opera Sale

LSO Live - LSO0700

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah

Allan Clayton (tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (bass), Iestyn Davies (countertenor) & Julia Doyle (soprano)

Polyphony & Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton

2CDs for the price of 1

‘No-one, but no-one performs Messiah better every year than the choir Polyphony under the conductor Stephen Layton’ (Evening Standard)

Polyphony and Stephen Layton’s live Messiah at St John’s Smith Square has become one of the highlights of the musical season. The joyful sincerity and urgent brilliance of the performers has brought the familiar story to life again and again. Now this wonderful experience is available on disc, recorded in 2008 for a new release that will surely prove a strong competitor in a necessarily crowded market. Polyphony is joined by the Britten Sinfonia and a quartet of magnificent young soloists – all variously acclaimed as the premier Handel singers of the new generation.

“…underpinned by the incisive modern instruments of Britten Sinfonia, the new release has both a fine sense of style and is full of refreshing insights… Tempos - after a slightly low-key start - are well judged, and the choir, the odd momentary hint of strain aside, sings with an effortless control and well-modulated fluency that takes wing when gutsiness is added to the mix.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2009

“…there is plenty of music-making here that has the lightness, textures and vocabulary of period style, but there is also the spiritual grandeur (and interventionist treatment of the score) of the great Northern choral society tradition. Julia Doyle is a charismatic Angel/narrator... and her embellishment recapitulation of the line "I know that my Redeemer liveth" is spine-tingling. Andrew Foster-Williams's singing is marvellous... Iestyn Davies's... ornamentation in "But who may abide" is masterful for its stylish vocabulary and expressive wisdom... Layton's affection for the oratorio is frequently discernible, not least in the technical and communicative qualities of Polyphony's exceptional singing of the choruses.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009

“The 16 strings of Britten Sinfonia make the most of Handel’s wonderfully varied accompaniments (their Why do the nations is hair-raising), the 31-strong Polyphony are excellent... and Layton’s direction is vivid and masterly.” Sunday Times, 20th December 2009 ****

Hyperion - CDA67800

(CD - 2 discs)


In stock - usually despatched within 1 working day.


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