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Cat. No. CHAN 9781(2) Price: £21 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 9781 - Britten: Paul Bunyan
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Available From: 25 November 1999
In many respects Brittenís Paul Bunyan, with a libretto by W.H. Auden, represents the quintessentially ĎAmericaní work of the composerís North American years (1939-1942). But to legions of post-war admirers it remained an unknown quantity consigned to the composerís bottom drawer following withdrawal after the flawed premiere in New York in May 1941. Revision to the work in 1975 led to its first performance in 1976. Paul Bunyan stands as one of the most lyrical of Brittenís scores, its melodic richness undoubtedly deriving from its conception as a high school operetta and from an aborted plan to stage the first performances on Broadway. A Broadway premiere also encouraged the composer and librettist to align the work with the tradition of profound seriousness which lay at the heart of the American musical of the 1930s and early 1940s Ė a tradition which allowed the nation not only to be a subject for celebration, but also for scepticism and criticism. The most recognisably ĎAmericaní influence on Brittenís music is perhaps to be found in the Ballad interludes, sung by the Narrator to a country-and-western style guitar accompaniment. Some of Brittenís musical techniques are prophetic of things to come later in his career. The assured handling of orchestral textures and the tailoring of solo vocal writing are features to be found in Brittenís stage works from Paul Bunyan onwards, while in the choral writing the composer of Peter Grimes, Billy Budd and Gloriana can be found.

Hickox brings out a remarkable clarity from orchestra and singers in this enchanting performance.
The Observer Review


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