Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:


George Frideric HANDEL
Israel in Egypt: The enemy said (1), Thou in thy mercy (2)
The Rake's Progress: Aha! He's here! The auctioneer (3)
Johann Sebastian BACH
St. Matthew Passion: O Schmerz!; Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen (4)
Gerald FINZI
Dies Natalis: Rhapsody; The Salutation (5)
Benjamin BRITTEN
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Asleep, my love? (6)
Cantata: Ricercar II (7); Westron Wind (8)
Michael NYMAN
Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs: 4. This damned witch Sycorax; 5. The fringed curtains of thine eye; 6. There's nothing ill can dwell (9)
Ian Bostridge (tenor), with Catherine Bott (soprano) (9), Rosemary Hardy (soprano) (8), Hilary Summers (alto) (9), Michael Chance (alto) (2), Boys' Choir of St. Bavo Cathedral, Haarlem (4), Netherlands Chamber Choir (4), Tokyo Opera Singers (3), Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (5), Brandenburg Consort (1, 2), Ensemble Instrumental de Basse-Normandie (9), London Symphony Orchestra (6), Orchestra of the 18th Century (4), Saito Kinen Orchestra (3), Schönberg Ensemble (7, 8)/Frans Brüggen (4), Stephen Cleobury (1, 2), Sir Colin Davis (6), Dominique Debart (9), Reinbert de Leeuw (7, 8), Sir Neville Marriner (5), Seiji Ozawa (3)

DECCA 467 788-2 [57.21]
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Is this really the world of Ian Bostridge? The bare mention, in Raymond McGill's notes, of a solo recital at the Wigmore Hall in 1995 is the only hint we get that Bostridge might just possibly, at some time or another, have sung a few lieder. Yet it was his Die Schöne Müllerin which got him a Gramophone award in 1996 and plenty more lieder and song have followed. Without in any way belittling his achievements in opera and oratorio it is perhaps his qualities as a solo recitalist which have brought him so quickly to the fore. But his records of this material are for other labels.

Quite frankly, when an artist has divided his work between several companies, I don't know how fair it is for one of these to bundle together a selection of that part of his repertoire which he has recorded for them, and try to pass it off as a rounded portrait.

Having got that out of the way, we do get a reasonable view of Bostridge in the baroque and 20th Century repertoire. The Britten aria is a fine test of his considerable technical abilities. He has a small, typically English tenor voice, with an even, musical timbre which lends beauty to some pieces which have in the past been the subject of noisy approximation. The extract from The Rake's Progress is effortlessly mellifluous and the clarity of his diction makes the lack of texts in the booklet a little less regrettable. It may seem odd to go from Handel to Stravinsky and then back to Bach. However, as a result of a small gap between one and the other and the abrasive, bumpy phrasing insisted on by Brüggen, the inattentive listener might not even notice when the composer changes! Something closer to what is generally thought of as a Bach style is to be found in the Stravinsky Ricercar. This extended movement is a tour de force from Bostridge for it is by no means easy to hold such a steady, gravely beautiful, line over a ten-minute span.

The Finzi Rhapsody lacks the radiance some have found in it, mainly because of Marriner's over-purposeful conducting; The Salutation is better.

The Nyman pieces make a fascinating sound but the odd change of tempo or shift of tonality are not enough to convince me that the music is going anywhere except round and round in circles. Since it concludes by just fading away we shall never know whether it caught its own tail in the end, but I doubt it.

Christopher Howell

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