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Cantatas BWV 102 & 151


Celebrate this Festival
ECO/Britten with soloists
Decca 466 819-2 79 mins
 Amazon UK   Amazon US

These are 'period' performances of considerable historical interest, dating from 1965 (by far the best one) 1967 & '68.

Bach's Susser Trost cantata brought me up with a surprised shock. The heavy vibrato of Heather Harper & Helen Watts, and too that of Richard Adeney in what Philip Reed cites as his 'exceptionlly liquid flute-playing', now sounds anachronistic. Having grown up listening to these musicians when rather younger, I was surprised how dated it all feels now; others will surely disagree.

Peter Pears is however his very distinctive and stylish self and I enjoyed John Shirley-Quirk (who, at about the same time, duetted with my small son on Mackerras's Archiv recording of Purcell's Hail bright Cecilia DG 447 149-2AP, which held its place in the catalogue and regular broadcasts until very recently). Shirley-Quirk is to be heard also in the Purcell Birthday Ode for Queen Mary. I was at that 1967 performance, in which James Bowman made his London debut, to inaugurate the Queen Elizabeth Hall, but now I find Britten's rather heavy manner with the English Chamber Orchestra has been completely eclipsed by the likes of Robert King and his King's Consort. (I can bore people about the good old days with the best, and am much given to nostalgia, but am not uncritically so!)

Better is the 1965 Aldeburgh Festival performance of the Herr, deine Augen cantata, superbly captured at Blythburgh Church, so I suppose, by John Bower of the BBC Transcription Service (only a guess, but he generally covered the Festival around then). It is graced by buoyant rhythms in Britten's conducting and a real feel of dance (the essence of so much in Bach's church cantatas) by Fischer-Dieskau, in his aria, preceded by a recitative which conveys enormous authority. Janet Baker is eloquent and steady in her aria, and beautifully supported by oboist Peter Graeme, a near-namesake whom I used to know.

But I do not feel able to recommend this CD as a whole to the general collector, as opposed to the fresh and vivid Britten/Pears Winterreise, [Decca Legends 466 382-2] reviewed at the same time.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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