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Cat. No. CHAN 10671 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10671 - Britten: Phaedra/ A Charm of Lullabies/Lachrymae/Two Portraits/Sinfonietta
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Available From: 15 April 2011
Britten: Phaedra/ A Charm of Lullabies/Lachrymae/Two Portraits/Sinfonietta

The repertoire on this album is written across a period of more than forty-five years, from the year Britten entered the Royal College of Music at the age of sixteen, to the very last year of his life.

The works are performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and they are conducted by Edward Gardner, whose Britten release in March 2011 (CHAN 10658) was made Disc of the Month in the April issue of BBC Music. They are joined by two extraordinary soloists. Sarah Connolly CBE is one of the foremost British mezzo-sopranos and a fellow of the Royal College of Music. She has been nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award, a TMA Award, and two Grammy awards – and won Edison, Gramophone, and South Bank awards. The violist Maxim Rysanov is one of the up-and-coming stars on today’s classical music scene. In the words of Gramophone: ‘It is rare for a musician featured as our One to Watch, already to be on his second Editor’s Choice…, but such is the pace of viola-player Maxim Rysanov’s rise that it’s difficult to keep up.’

The earliest of the works recorded here is Britten’s Two Portraits for strings. Written around the time Britten joined the Royal College of Music, this work remained unpublished during his lifetime. It was published only posthumously, in 1997. The first ‘portrait’ is an exuberant character-study of a childhood friend. The second, by contrast, is a characteristically introspective self-portrait, with the plaintive voice of the viola (the string instrument that Britten himself played) taking the lead. The soloist in the Two Portraits and Lachrymae is Maxim Rysanov.

The cantata Phaedra, Op. 93 is one of the very last works written by the composer before his death in 1976. Britten modelled the work on the Italian baroque cantatas of Handel, but it is also strongly influenced by Purcell, especially in the quality of the word setting. Phaedra is based on Robert Lowell’s acclaimed verse translation of Racine’s classical tragedy Phèdre, in which Phaedra, who is suffering from unrequited love for Hippolytus, the son of her husband by his former wife, causes his death, before, devastated by remorse, she takes her own life. Originally written for the mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, the tragic part of Phaedra is here sung by Sarah Connolly (also featured in A Charm of Lullabies). This is an extremely taut and economical work, very intense, and emotionally charged.

Reviews

   ***** Exceptional
Giuseppe Rossi – Musica magazine (Italy) – September 2011


                Recording of the Month
“A wonderful collection which succeeds because of the excellence of the performances.”
Michael  Greenhalgh – musicweb-international.com – August 2011
 

“...The real stunner... is Lachrymae, Britten’s Reflections on a Song of Dowland ... An austere meditation on the relationship between art and morality, it benefits immensely from Edward Gardner’s lean conducting and the sparse intensity of maxim Rysanov’s playing. Rysanov also plays the effusive yet melancholy Two Portraits, composed when Britten was only 16, while Connolly is notably haunting in Colin Matthews’s orchestration of the 1947 song cycle A Charm of Lullabies...”  ****
Tim Ashley – The Guardian – 10 June 2011

“...Britten’s instrumental writing is highly accomplished ... the BBC SO under Edward Gardner responds with playing of great skill and sensitivity. They are joined in Lachrymae by viola player Maxim Rysanov, who gives an outstanding reading of these ‘reflections on a song of Dowland’, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, whose ravishing accounts of  A Charm of Lullabies and Phaedra subtly suggest in their colourations the singer Britten originally composed for: Nancy Evans and Janet baker. Britten’s extraordinary ability to sound engagingly fresh and contemporary without resorting to gimmicks or ‘isms’ comes bubbling to the surface in these fine performances.” ****
Julian Haylock – Classic FM Magazine – July 2011

Performance *****    Recording ****
David Nice – BBC Music Magazine – July 2011
 

       Editor’s Choice
“Vivid soloists in works that span the whole of Britain’s career ... vital playing from  the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chandos’s excellent sound. None of these is a first recording but everyone is top quality. .. Imaginative programme, highly recommended.”
Richard Fairman – Gramophone – July 2011

“...The Chandos disc is dominated by Phaedra, the wonderfully moody and compact cantata Britten wrote for Janet Baker at the end of his life ... Sarah Connolly reveals Phaedra’s stature, summoning such word sensitivity and classical poise that you wonder why this remarkable piece is not heard more often in the concert hall... The disc’s other success is Lachrymae for viola and strings, to which Maxim Rysanov, the BBC Symphony and Gardner bring a poignant intensity.”
Andrew Clark – Financial Times – 28 May 2011

 Album of the week
“Written over 40 years, these works will in most cases by unfamiliar to listeners and these excellent recordings make a superb advocacy.”
Michael Church – The Independent – 28 May 2011
 

           “Editor’s Choice’
“...Warmly recorded and urgently recommended.”
Guy Weatherall – Classical Music Magazine – 21 May 2011

“The conductor Edward Gardner’s sympathy for the music of Britten is fully displayed in a programme ranging from juvenilia to the late Phaedra, a short cantata with the force of an opera. But the dominating artist is the mezzo Sarah Connolly, compelling as Racine’s heroine in the grip of a tragic passion. In a quieter mood, Maxim Rysanov’s viola shines in the melancholic relections of Lachrymae and the second of the early Two Portraits.”  ****
Geoff Brown – The Times - 7 May 2011

 

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