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Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake
and other songs
The unbeatable, multi-award-winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake turn to the composer Benjamin Britten for their latest Hyperion release.
Although Britten is particularly celebrated for the substantial body of music he composed for the tenor voice, the composer also left an important legacy of music for baritone. Characteristically, Britten’s output for low voice was also inspired by the talents of specific performers with whom he was closely associated, among them Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and John Shirley-Quirk. In addition to song-cycles, individual songs and folksong arrangements, Britten wrote challenging baritone roles in operas as diverse as Billy Budd (1951), Owen Wingrave (1970) and Death in Venice (1972)—the title role of the second of these made very much Gerald Finley’s own in his magnificent interpretation in Margaret Williams’s 2001 television film of the opera.
This disc contains Britten’s two important song cycles for baritone: Tit for Tat, setting the poems of Walter de la Mare, and the more substantial and challenging Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. The latter was written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; designed to showcase his unique blend of intense lyricism and dramatic characterization, qualities which are undoubtedly also exhibited by Gerald Finley.
Also included are some of Britten’s popular folksong settings, and a selection of later songs, which received exposure and publication only after the composer’s death in December 1976.
“Finley as ever acquits himself as a fine singer, a conscientious artist and a thoroughly reliable musician....In all (including the Blake) Julius Drake is the superb pianist.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2010
“Gerald Finley sings them all with such an unwaveringly beautiful tone and attention to every syllable, and pianist Julian Drake is so wonderfully attuned to the baritone's inflections...Finley comes into his own in the final Every Night and Every Morn, and Drake's handling of the powerfully wrought accompaniments is superb.” The Guardian, 3rd June 2010 ****
“Finley’s watchwords are directness and clarity, both of which come across to splendid effect in the folk-song arrangements and the comic duet The Deaf Woman’s Courtship, in which he performs both parts. Drake is his admirable partner in this outstanding enterprise.” Sunday Times, 13th June 2010 ****
“[Finley] just seems to be singing naturally, but at the same time he colors and inflects with astonishing specificity. He manages to vary the repeats in those folk-song settings where verses are repeated...His diction is crisp and clear, which adds to the dramatic impact of his singing.” Fanfare, 26th October 2010
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Britten - Before Life and After
It was on returning from a tour of the German concentration camps with Yehudi Menuhin, in 1945, that Britten finally realised his long-cherished project of setting to music the spiritual sonnets of John Donne (1572-1631). He succeeded admirably in conveying their skilful blend of passion and intellectual rigour.
Mark Padmore was born in London and grew up in Canterbury. After beginning his musical studies on the clarinet he gained a choral scholarship to King's College, Cambridge and graduated with an honours degree in music. He has established a flourishing career in opera, concert and recital. His performances in Bach's Passions have gained particular notice throughout the world. His disc of Handel arias As Steals the Morn with The English Concert and Andrew Manze won the BBC Music Magazine Vocal Award in April 2008. Future releases for harmonia mundi include Die Winterreise with Paul Lewis.
“Padmore's sound is more beautiful and easily expressive than Pears's ever was, but he never imposes his own personality too forcefully, content to let the natural inflections of the bespoke vocal lines in the Donne cycle follow their own course.” The Guardian, 26th June 2009 ****
“Before life and after is the more consoling conclusion to the Hardy cycle, and Padmore lavishes a palette of tone colour to match or even outshine Pears here. His English diction has an unfussy naturalness, and Vignoles captures the descriptive imagery of the piano parts with their descriptions of the train whistle and the boy’s violin. Padmore’s voice now sounds dark for Purcell, but the three Britten realisations suit it well, and the disc is rounded off by five of Britten’s most attractive folk-song arrangements.” Sunday Times, 5th July 2009 *****
“Padmore is on happier ground with the idiosyncratic Purcell realisations, especially in a gem of an 'Evening Hymn', while the Hardy vignettes of Winter Words bring an ideally subtle sense of atmosphere from both singer and pianist.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2009 ****
“The Holy Sonnets of John Donne were composed in 1945, soon after Britten's visit to German concentration camps, and the stark immediacy of that experience can be heard in the composer's own recordings. Padmore and Roger Vignoles, his warm-toned accompanist, take a more reflective line. ...the core of the cycle is some heartfelt singing in the sixth and most beautiful setting, "Since she whom I loved". The vivid picture-painting of Winter Words helps make it probably Britten's most popular song-cycle with piano. Several of the Thomas Hardy poems evoke a time of innocence now lost, a familiar Britten theme, and the evocative performance by Padmore and Vignoles captures that sense of longing particularly well.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2009
“This declamatory, religious-themed repertoire fits Padmore like a glove, marrying as it does his enduring success as a performer of early sacred music with his newer success as a chamber recitalist...A satisfying recital on every level.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 21st December 2009
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Sandrine Piau: Aprés un Rêve
Galgenlieder - Mondendinge
Down by the Salley Gardens
There's none to soothe
I wonder as I wander
Amour d’antan, Op. 8 No. 2
Dans la forêt du charme et de l’enchantement, Op. 36 No. 2
Les Heures, Op. 27 No. 1
Après un rêve, Op. 7 No. 1
Clair de Lune, Op. 46 No. 2
Les berceaux, Op. 23 No. 1
Nachtlied, Op. 71 No. 6
Neue Liebe, Op. 19a No. 4
Hexenlied, Op. 8 No. 8
Schlafloser Augen Leuchte (Byron)
Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3
Das Geheimnis, Op. 17 No. 3
Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4
The award-winning pairing of soprano Sandrine Piau and pianist Susan Manoff received unanimous critical acclaim for their previous recital disc Evocation, (V5063). On their new CD Après un rêve they perform a fascinating collection of songs by some of the greatest composers for the voice of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Richard Strauss, Fauré, Mendelssohn, Chausson, Poulenc, Britten and Vincent Bouchot.
After initially making her reputation in Baroque music alongside the likes of William Christie, Philippe Herreweghe, Christophe Rousset, and René Jacobs, Sandrine Piau now sings a broad repertoire reflected in her large discography. and she has now confirmed her position at the forefront of the new generation of French singers. Her Handel album with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques (E8928), was an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone, and in 2007 she released an award-winning recital CD entitled Évocation (V5063), on which she was accompanied by the pianist Susan Manoff. Après un rêve demonstrates once again the strength of her musical relationship with Manoff, with whom she appears regularly at venues like the Carnegie Hall and the Wigmore Hall. Her solo discography for Naïve also includes a programme of Mozart opera arias with the Freiburger Barockorchester (V4932), and two recent bestselling Handel albums, duets with Sara Mingardo directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini (OP30483) and the solo album Between Heaven and Earth with Accademia Bizantina (OP30484).
“Piau brings her limpid tone, refined phrasing and easy, silvery top notes to this eclectic programme, built around the themes of night, dreams and the fantastic...With virtually accent-free English, Piau gives true and touching performances of three Britten folksong arrangements.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2011
“Piau's exquisite voice has a limpid quality all through its range, an evennes of tone which seduces the ear and - art concealing art - she makes her performance sound as easy as breathing...Bouchot's Galgenlieder songs,m with their skewed harmonies, off-centre melodies and dark fairy-tale lyrics, are a fascinating addition to the repertoire too, and Manoff's accompanying is a treat.” Classic FM Magazine, July 2011 ****
“surrender to Piau's gifts as a singer, the purity of her tone, with that light silvery quality that we should associate with the best of the French style, and the effortless, so it seems, spinning of a seamless legato...Everything is grist to her mill, it seems, even Britten's most English songs that she delivers with immaculate diction while sounding completely at home in a second language...this is a sophisticated and a fine artist at work.” International Record Review, July 2011
“This celebration of dreams and childhood is, on the purely sensuous level, an unending delight. Piau's sweet, unforced tone, her bright top notes perfectly integrated with her medium and exemplary diction combine to make this in many ways yet another exmaple of how well Baroque vocal technique translates into the later song repertoire.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2011 ****
“It's a journey whose darkest depths are reached by Vincent Bouchot's use of Morgenstern's Galgenlieder (Gallow Songs), in which are encountered more surreal images – notably the inhabitants of the moon depicted "show[ing] their teeth to the sulphurous hyena" in "Moonthings".” The Independent, 1st July 2011 ***
“there's exquisite playing from Susan Manoff, and no mistaking the beauty of Piau's voice, or her hypnotic way with words. This is singing that sends shivers down your spine.” The Guardian, 7th July 2011 ****
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