“The two longest works – the cantata Boyhood'sEnd and song cycle The Heart's Assurance – challenge the musicianship and sensitivity of both singer and pianist alike. Boyhood's End (1943), a setting of prose that's never prosaic, shows the ecstasy of Midsummer Marriage to be already within the system, and the profusion of notes has to be mastered so that the dance shall seem as delicate and natural as graceful improvisation.
In The Heart's Assurance (1951) the spirit's similar, although the technical accomplishment of all concerned, composer and performers, is heightened. For the singer, in addition to the quite fearsome difficulties of pitch and rhythm, there's also likely to be some problem of tessitura, particularly in the third of the songs, 'Compassion'.
For the pianist, concentration has to be divided between the virtuoso writing of his own part and responsiveness to the singer, his notes, words and expression. Martyn Hill and Andrew Ball are wonderfully at one in all this, and the balancing of voice and piano has been finely achieved. The Songs for Achilles, with guitar, also convey a real sense of ardent improvisation, and the voice rings out freely. The Songs for Ariel here work their natural magic. Tippett's affinities with Purcell are felt at one time or another in most of these compositions, starting with the opening of the programme, the setting of Shelley's Sleep. The disc was issued to mark the composer's 90th birthday, and serves as a touching and eloquent tribute.”