Britten Conducts Britten Vol.3 (10 CD box set, FLAC)
Britten Conducts Britten Vol.3 (10 CD box set, FLAC)

Performer: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Donald Francke, Owen Brannigan, Keith Marjoram, Stuart Knussen, et al.
Orchestra: Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra, East Suffolk children’s orchestra, English Opera Group Orchestra
Conductor: Benjamin Britten, George Malcolm, Norman del Mar, Russell Burgess
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 10 CD box set
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 3.21 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc: 1
01. Salus aeterna
02. Good people, in his holy name
03. By the Royal Command
04. Adept in magic
05. The waters of Babylon
06. Sirs, what is this?
07. We do not lack enemies
08. By the Royal Decree
09. Procession
10. Merodak! Lord of Creation!
11. Bring them here before my Majesty
12. O King, Nebuchadnezzar
13. O all ye works of the Lord
14. Shadrach, Meshach, Abenego
15. O ye winter and summer
16. Good people, we have shown you

Disc: 2
01. Te lucis ante treminum
02. I am the ferryman
03. I come from the Westland
04. But first may I ask you what is that strange noise?
05. Clear as a sky without a cloud
06. Near the Black Mountains there I dwelt
07. A thousand leagues may sunder a mother and her son
08. Ignorant man! You refuse a passage to me…
09. I beg your pardon
10. Curlew River, smoothly flowing…
11. Today is an important day
12. Look! While you were listening to my story…
13. Ferryman, tell me, when did it happen?
14. Hoping, I wandered on
15. He whose life was full of promise
16. The moon has risen
17. Go your way in peace, mother
18. Good souls, we have shown you…

Disc: 3
01. Jam lucis orto sidere
02. Ah – you people
03. The ceremony
04. I am father to you all
05. Forgive me asking you
06. Father, may I speak to you?
07. Take you due portion
08. Go, if you must go
09. Welcome, welcome, stranger!
10. You are tired from a long journey
11. Nights are days
12. You have gambled and lost
13. Now – I have done what I said
14. With joy I sowed
15. My son
16. O sing unto the Lord
17. My children, you have seen

Disc: 4
01. Lord Jesus, think on me
02. I God, that all this worlde hath wroughte
03. Have done, you men and women all
04. Now in the name of God I will begyne
05. Noye, Noye, take thou thy company
06. Wiffe, come in! why standes thou their?
07. Ha! children, me thinkes my botte removes
08. Now forty dayes are fullie gone
09. Noye, take thy wife anone
10. Noye, heare I behette thee a heste
11. The spavious firmament on high
12. There was a ship came from the North Country
13. Then up spake the Cabin-boy
14. Casting his clothes off he dived into the sea
15. They laid him on the deck

Disc: 5
01. Sweep! Sweep!
02. Sweep this chimney
03. Now, little white boy!
04. Pull the rope gently until he is free!
05. Is he wounded?
06. Sooty tracks
07. Run, poor sweep-boy
08. The kettles are singing
09. O why do you weep
10. Pantomime. Ah!…Blackguards!
11. Help! Help! She’s collapsed!
12. The owl, wide-winging through the sky
13. Soon the coach will carry you away
14. Morning, Sammy! Lovely weather
15. Ready Alfred?
16. Coaching song: The horses are champing

Disc: 6
01. Introduction
02. The Birth of Nicolas
03. Nicolas devotes himself to God
04. He journeys to Palestine
05. Nicolas comes to Myra and is chosen Bishop
06. Nicolas from prison
07. Nicolas and the Pickled Boys
08. His Piety and Marvellous Works
09. The Death of Nicolas
10. Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues
11. For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey
12. For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour
13. For the flowers are great blessings
14. For I am under the same accusation
15. For H is a spirit

Disc: 7
01. Procession
02. Wolcum Yole!
03. There is no rose
04. That yongë child
05. Balulalow
06. As dew in Aprille
07. This little Babe
08. Interlude
09. In freezing winter night
10. Spring Carol
11. Deo gracias – Adam lay ibounden
12. Recession
13. A Boy was Born (theme)
14. Variation 1: Lullay, Jesu
15. Variation 2: Herod
16. Variation 3: Jesu, as Thour art our Saviour
17. Variation 4: The Three Kings
18. Variation 5: In the bleak mid-winter
19. Variation 6: Finale – Noel!
20. Begone, dull care!
21. A tragic story
22. Cuckoo!
23. A New Year Carol
24. I mun be married on Sunday
25. There was a man of Newington
26. Fishing Song
27. The useful plough
28. Jazz-Man
29. There was a monkey
30. Old Abram Brown

Disc: 8
01. Part 1. 1. Introduction: Shine out
02. Part 1. 2. The merry cuckoo
03. Part 1. 3. Spring, the sweet spring
04. Part 1. 4. When as the rye (The Driving Boy)
05. Part 1. 5. Now the bright morning star
06. Part 2. 6. Welcome Maids of Honour
07. Part 2. 7. Waters above!
08. Part 2. 8. Out on the lawn I lie in bed
09. Part 3. 9. When will my May come?
10. Part 3. 10. Fair and fair
11. Part 3. 11. Sound the flute!
12. Part 4. Finale: London, to thee I do present
13. Part 1. 1. Bonorum summum omnium / 2. quae bene beateque vivendi
14. Part 1. 3. At huius caelestis / 4. Maiorum imprimis virtus / 5. tum vero Aeneas Sylvius
15. Part 1. 6. Et gubernacula mundi qui tenet / 7. ut ad longaeva tempora
16. Part 2. 8. Docendi ac discendi aequitati
17. Part 2. 9. Rhenana erga omnes urbs / 10. ut iustissime Basilea audiat / 11. O cives Basilienses
18. Part 2. 12. Non autem cuncti hoc festo die / 13. vigeatque academia libera
19. 1. In a garden shady
20. 2. I cannot grow
21. 3. O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall

Disc: 9
01. Requiem aeternam. Requiem aeternam
02. Requiem aeternam. What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
03. Dies irae. Dies irae
04. Dies irae. Bugles sang
05. Dies irae. Liber scriptus proferetur
06. Dies irae. Out there
07. Dies irae. Recordare Jesu pie
08. Dies irae. Be slowly lifted up
09. Dies irae. Dies irae
10. Dies irae. Lacrimosa dies illa
11. Dies irae. Move him into the sun
12. Offertorium. Domine Jesu Christe
13. Offertorium. So Abram rose
14. Sanctus. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus
15. Sanctus. After the blast of lightning

Disc: 10
01. Agnus Dei. One ever hangs
02. Libera me. Libera me, Domine
03. Libera me. It seemed that out of battle I escaped
04. Libera me. Let us sleep now… In paradisum
05. Rehearsal: Requiem aeternam
06. Rehearsal: Dies irae (opening section)
07. Discussion in the control room between Britten and Galina Vishnevskaya (via her interpreter)
08. Rehearsal: Dies irae (end of movement)
09. Rehearsal: Offertorium
10. Rehearsal: Sanctus
11. Discussion in the control room between Britten and Vishnevskaya (via her interpreter): Sanctus
12. Discussion in the control room between Britten, Peter Pears and John Culshaw: Agnus Dei
13. Discussion in the control room between Britten and John Culshaw: Libera me
14. Rehearsal: Libera me
15. Rehearsal: Libera me (closing page)

Britten’s “Other” Works

Of the four “Britten Conducts Britten” box sets issued by Decca, this one might be titled “The Miscellaneous Works.” These 10 CDs collect various choral works, the three Church Parables, and the massive War Requiem. While the beginning collector might be better off starting with the operas, the song cycles, or the orchestral works, true Britten fans are eventually going to want this set.

The discs themselves are well recorded, with those marvelous Decca sonics of the 1960s–neither arid acoustics nor too much reverb to spoil the recordings. The Church Parables and the War Requiem in particular benefit from Decca producer John Culshaw’s approach to recording, which set out to use the acoustics of the recording studio as an integral part of the performance. Britten’s conducting is masterly: few others match his command of his own works (really, only Colin Davis and–at times–Andre Previn come close), and most of the works were recorded with the artists for whom Britten wrote them.

The first three discs are the Church Parables–“The Burning Fiery Furnace,” “Curlew River,” and “The Prodigal Son”–in which Britten mixed together medieval mystery plays, Japanese No drama, and his own musical sensibilities into something utterly unique. The works are spare, using a tiny instrumental ensemble and a handful of vocalists; but, oddly, they are among Britten’s most sensual works. The vocal lines are graceful in a way that even “Peter Grimes” is not. Even if the music is not “religious” in the traditional sense of the word, this awe-inspiring music in the most traditional sense of the word.

The set also includes much of the music Britten wrote for amateurs and children. Although Britten is often regarded as something of an expert in the writing of music for non-professional performers, these works aren’t at the highest standards of his output. “The Children’s Crusade” is simply naive (what was Britten doing with a Bertold Brecht text, anyway?), “The Golden Vanity” is twee and cloying, and “The Little Sweep” is saccharine and fey: he manages to reproduce the exact style and content of a Victorian fable for small children, with the sort of lesson that makes Disney morality look like Kant by comparison.

However, once we pass to discs 6-8, things look up again. Here we have a wide range of Britten’s choral music, from the traditional English feel of “A Ceremony of Carols” to the almost Mahlerian excess of the “Spring Symphony” (and who else but Britten or Mahler would make a vocal symphony about spring one of their darker works?), many of which the average listener may be hearing for the first time. The “Cantata Academica” is particularly delightful.

The set concludes with the massive “War Requiem,” which I suspect many people will already own. Enough has been written about this particular recording (it is the original 1963 version with Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Galina Visknevskaya) that nothing more need be said. Except, perhaps, that this includes set includes the rehearsal extracts from the recording session released with the last remastering of the recording. These reveal Britten to be a passionate and witty conductor, the sort many musicians would hope to have leading them.

This is an expensive set, but for the Britten fanatic and the Britten fan it will become indispensable. It reveals a side of the composer different from the opera composer, and a side well worth knowing. This set is highly recommended.

2 Comments

  1. Always wanted to know these splendid and sometimes challenging works. Thank you. Thank you.

Leave a Reply