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Benjamin Britten Song Cycles
Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo; Holy Sonnets of John Donne; Winter Words; If It's Ever Spring Again; The Children & Sir Nameless

Philip Langridge (tenor) Steuart Bedford (piano)
Original 1996 Collins Classics release.
[67 mins]

Here is one of the strongest of the Collins Classics re-issues to adorn the Naxos catalogue.In earlier years there was a myth fostered that these song cycles were so closely associated with Peter Pears that others were reluctant to tackle them. His recordings with the composer remain indispensible for serious Britten collectors, but there is a new generation now and these are powerful, insightful accounts by a great tenor of the '90s and as knowledgeable a partner as you could find, steeped in the whole Britten oeuvre as conductor of the operas and orchestral music.

The Donne Sonnets is the most intense and demanding of these tenor cycles, Langridge and Bedford striking sparks off each other. Winter Words is my favourite of them, and the earlier Michelangelo Sonnets remind us of Britten's trawl of poems to set in many languages, and Naxos provides full texts of all the tracks and translations from the Italian. Philip Langridge is in excellent voice throughout this strenuous programme, recorded in the Blackheath Concert Halls close by my home, from which I review Blackheath Sundays regularly. It was a privilege to work with Steuart Bedford in his younger days and mine, and his accompanying of my son for Turnabout and Unicorn LPs, in very different repertoire, can be sampled on Musical Pointers.

Excellent recording balance; recommended with enthusiasm.

© Peter Grahame Woolf