Benjamin Britten

Started by Boris_G, July 12, 2007, 10:14:21 PM

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kishnevi

Quote from: Scarpia on May 23, 2010, 02:28:29 PM
Listened to a piece by Britten that I have not heard before, the Violin Concerto.  The recording I have is Vengrov/Rostropovich with the London Symphony.

It is a piece that has a lot of interesting music, but which I don't find quite holds together.  The first movement is the part that works best for me, not a typical Concerto opening movement, but a sort of rhapsody in medium temp.  The middle movement is a scherzo and the finale a grand passacaglia.  My problem is that I don't find the passacaglia works as a concerto movement.  There are parts where the orchestra builds up to imposing creschendos, then it falls away to reveal the solo violin, which is unable to sustain the drama or momentum (at least in my impression of this performance).  The very end is very beautiful, a haunting, quiet passage.

In any case, I'm not sure Vengerov/Rostropovic/EMI Abbey Road is the idea for this, so I have Britten's own recording on order.

It's also been recorded by Jansen with Jarvi .  I had a good impression of it, but it didn't seem as good as the piano concerto.  The bad part of the CD is the coupling: you'll be stuck with a distinctly second tier Beethoven VC.

alkan

#121
I have the Britten/Lubotsky VC recording.
I must admit that the Violin Concerto is not my favourite Britten work, EXCEPT for the ending !!      I often play just the last 5 minutes of this work.     The ending is absolutely mesmerising, with the orchestra swaying backwards and forwards between major and minor, the hushed cymbal clashes and the violin's almost drunken glissandos superimposed above.   What originality, and what fabulous orchestration.    It's magical, and I find that Lubotsky plays it to perfection   (well he would HAVE to, with BB standing next to him!).

The only violin concerto with a better ending is Prokofiev's First ..... and that is in a class of it's own !!!
The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.
Harlan Ellison (1934 - )

False_Dmitry

I heard a Britten rarity in a live concert yesterday - his short cantata for boy's chorus & soloists, "The Golden Vanity".  A nice little piece too  :)
____________________________________________________

"Of all the NOISES known to Man, OPERA is the most expensive" - Moliere

Scarpia

Quote from: alkan on May 27, 2010, 03:22:43 AM
I have the Britten/Lubotsky VC recording.
I must admit that the Violin Concerto is not my favourite Britten work, EXCEPT for the ending !!      I often play just the last 5 minutes of this work.     The ending is absolutely mesmerising, with the orchestra swaying backwards and forwards between major and minor, the hushed cymbal clashes and the violin's almost drunken glissandos superimposed above.   What originality, and what fabulous orchestration.    It's magical, and I find that Lubotsky plays it to perfection   (well he would HAVE to, with BB standing next to him!).

The only violin concerto with a better ending is Prokofiev's First ..... and that is in a class of it's own !!!

Just listened to the Britten/Lubotsky recording, which is a big improvement over the Vengerov/Rostropovich.  I still have the same basic issue, that the passacaglia doesn't convince, but the first two movements sparkle with wit and inventive orchestration.  I think the new rule for me is that when there is a Britten recording of a Britten composition, that is the recording to have.  He understands his own music and knows how to bring it off better than the "superstar" conductors.

alkan

Quote from: Scarpia on May 29, 2010, 10:17:20 AM
I think the new rule for me is that when there is a Britten recording of a Britten composition, that is the recording to have.  He understands his own music and knows how to bring it off better than the "superstar" conductors.

Yes, fully agree.      I've never found anyone who has given a better performance than Britten of his own work (IMHO), but sometimes other performers get close (eg Hickox War Requiem, Previn Sea Interludes, ...).     In various documentaries and recordings of Britten directing, it is clear that he knew very precisely what effects he wanted and he could communicate this to the performers.    Also, Decca usually gave him a first class sound quality.
The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.
Harlan Ellison (1934 - )

knight66

From my point of view, it is a great pity that so many of Britten's otherwise indispensable recordings are blighted by Peter Pears. I don't care that he was supposed to be a superb musician and it is all very well that he inspired many of Britten's best vocal works, but Pears's voice is like dragging nails down a blackboard.

If you can name me a supposedly great singer with an odder voice production or who gives off uglier sounds, give me the name....and do leave off Maria Callas!

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Sergeant Rock

Quote from: knight on May 31, 2010, 03:55:39 AM
From my point of view, it is a great pity that so many of Britten's otherwise indispensable recordings are blighted by Peter Pears.
Mike

Yeah, I have the same problem. Because of Pears I prefer the Davis/Vickers Grimes, the Hickox War Requiem, Nagano's Billy Budd, and just about anyone elses Serenade for Tenor.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

knight66

Yes, same here with the same 'alternative' versions. I have a couple of discs with him warbling away and return to them every so often, but my ears remain just as allergic.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Sergeant Rock

Quote from: knight on May 31, 2010, 07:13:55 AM
Yes, same here with the same 'alternative' versions. I have a couple of discs with him warbling away and return to them every so often, but my ears remain just as allergic.

I actually have quite a few of his recordings on LP. In the late 60s, 70s there wasn't much choice; for the operas almost no choice but Britten/Pears. But I wanted the music. In my CD collection, though, there is only one Pears recording: Gerontius. But I don't listen to it much now that I have Boult, Barbirolli and Elder.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

knight66

Gerontius is interesting for Britten's spring clean. But Pears sounds near death even when released from it and the strain is his and the listeners. What a shame Britten could not have had a singer who would not have compromised an otherwise excellent version.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Sergeant Rock

Quote from: knight on May 31, 2010, 08:23:10 AM
Gerontius is interesting for Britten's spring clean....

And for Minton's contribution. I think we've discussed my Minton obsession before. But yeah, I love what Britten does with music...in fact, that goes for just about everything he conducted.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Scarpia

Another listen to the Richter/Britten recording of the Britten Piano Concerto confirms my initial impression.  The work is structured in a manner similar to a Baroque "Suite" and conveys a similar impression.  It is rich in interesting snippets of melody, brilliant orchestral effects and witty repartee between the soloist and orchestra, but not so high on thematic development or emotional intensity.  A pleasant piece, but not destined to become a true favorite of mine, probably.  Again, the performance is just right.  I have one other recording of the piece, the premier recording made by EMI in the fifties (forgot the performers) but it seems superfluous after hearing this recording.



kishnevi

Quote from: Scarpia on June 03, 2010, 05:09:08 PM
Another listen to the Richter/Britten recording of the Britten Piano Concerto confirms my initial impression.  The work is structured in a manner similar to a Baroque "Suite" and conveys a similar impression.  It is rich in interesting snippets of melody, brilliant orchestral effects and witty repartee between the soloist and orchestra, but not so high on thematic development or emotional intensity.  A pleasant piece, but not destined to become a true favorite of mine, probably.  Again, the performance is just right.  I have one other recording of the piece, the premier recording made by EMI in the fifties (forgot the performers) but it seems superfluous after hearing this recording.

Don't have that one; do have this one:

And like it.

Besides the "official" version of the recording, it also has as a supplement the original third movement which Britten later scrapped, so you can hear the concerto both ways.
Coupled with Young Apollo and Diversions, which is really a concerto for the left hand, written for the same pianist for whom Prokofiev and Ravel had earlier written their left hand concertos.

Scarpia

I think I've found an exception to my rule, that Britten is the best conductor of his own works.  The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.  Britten's recording strikes me as a mess, with balances very badly handled and the orchestra sounding very awkward.  Hickox's recording struck me as infinitely better.   However, the same disc with Brittens YPGtO had his recording of the simple symphony, which was superb.

I think Britten may be better suited to the more intimate scores, and works best with the English Chamber Orchestra, rather than the London Symphony (the forces in the YPGtO recording).

karlhenning

The Double Concerto . . . have I listened to it from the Big Box yet?  If I have . . . why am I uncertain of it . . . ?

bhodges

Just listened to that last night on the Nagano/HallĂ© CD, and liked it pretty well.  But I don't find it quite as catchy as some other Britten, at least at the moment.

--Bruce

karlhenning

Quote from: bhodges on July 28, 2010, 11:43:15 AM
Just listened to that last night on the Nagano/HallĂ© CD, and liked it pretty well.  But I don't find it quite as catchy as some other Britten, at least at the moment.

Yes, I saw your post, Bruce, and that is what got me thinking . . . because it is a piece in which, from time to time for half a decade, my interest has been occasionally piqued.  I think it is absent from the box!

Young Apollo is good stuff.

Mirror Image

I really love Britten a lot. When I first heard him a few years ago, I was quite turned off to his idiom. Something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. Now, I'm in awe of his mastery of almost every aspect of classical music. I'm a big fan of his orchestral works (obviously). I do also love some of his vocal works too like Ballad of Heroes, Cantata misericordium, Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, and, of course, the War Requiem. He wrote such creative music. I really enjoy the rhythmic aspect of his music, which seems to be as important as melody, harmony, and structure.

karlhenning

Found that the Double Concerto is on an Arte Nova disc, which is a low risk.  Just waiting for it, now . . . .

kishnevi

Quote from: k a rl h e nn i ng on July 30, 2010, 04:36:30 AM
Found that the Double Concerto is on an Arte Nova disc, which is a low risk.  Just waiting for it, now . . . .

Have that recording. IMO, it is the least interesting of the three works on that CD, although it does sound unmistakeably Britten.  But it is actually just a working-up by Colin Mathews of the short score Britten composed while still a student (aetat 19), and then essentially left sitting in a drawer for the rest of his life.  Apparently he thought well enough of it not to throw it out, but not well enough of it to rework it in any way.