This album brings together composers and musicians who stood at a nexus of excellence in British musical life in the 1950s and 60s. They are all linked by the impresario-like gifts of Benjamin Britten, who did so much to re-energise British music in the postwar period, to present it on an international stage and give it a reputation and eminence it had hitherto lacked, perhaps since the glory days of Henry Purcell. Indeed, the very concept of a song-cycle for voice and guitar takes us back to the Elizabethan age of quiet melancholy adumbrated by John Dowland and Henry Lawes, and renewed by Britten in his Coronation opera Gloriana, an aria from which is included here to bring the concept full circle.
Britten’s own delightful arrangements of folksongs may need little introduction, but his cycle of settings of Chinese poetry is now little-known, perhaps because its style is so intimately linked with the lyric style of Peter Pears and the formidable accomplishment of Julian Bream. The music of Matyás Seiber and Peter Racine Fricker is again less familiar to listeners nowadays; Seiber’s French folksong arrangements and Racine Fricker’s O Mistress mine present a lighter, more deliciously elegant side to outputs that were often more imposing than Britten’s always melodic style of writing.
Walton’s Anon in Love – again, written for the artists on this recording – derives from 16th and 17-century texts chosen by Christopher Hassall, the librettist who worked with Walton on Troilus and Cressida. Their introspective charm, and the delight Walton took in setting them, is obvious.
“Peter Pears gives the words their full due, and sings with sensitive mastery, while Julian Bream plays with unfailing affection… His folk-song arrangements are delightful, and at least one of them has a guitar part of
formidable difficulty. The Seiber arrangements of French folk-songs are simpler in style, but lovely to hear, and the Fricker setting of O Mistress mine, is delightful.…enthralling music and superb performances and splendid quality makes this
out-of-the-way record a joy.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.