One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3


CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1948) [15:47]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Les Nuits d’été (1841) [28:12]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Les Illuminations, Op. 18 (1939) [22:22]
Anne-Catherine Gillet (soprano)
Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège/Paul Daniel
rec. 6-11 September 2011, Salle Philharmonique, Liège, Belgium
All sung texts and English translations included
AEON AECD1113 [66:21] [Amazon]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a dream of a programme, and the performances by Belgian soprano Anne-Catherine Gillet are enchanting.
When the American journalist and writer James Agee died prematurely in 1955, his magnificent autobiographical novel A Death in the Family was complete but still in an early draft. It was published in this form and is a most moving work. Also amongst his papers was found a passage of prose entitled “Knoxville: Summer 1915”, and Agee’s first editor decided to place this at the head of the book as a kind of prologue. It’s a magical evocation of a summer’s evening seen through the eyes of a child, Agee himself. Samuel Barber selected passages from this piece, resulting in a short vocal work that falls into three main sections.
In an interview in the booklet, Anne-Marie Gillet expresses surprise at those who refer to her voice as “bright”. Bright it is, though, but there is richness there too, and power enough to explain her success in the opera house. Her tuning is spot-on, and her stratospheric region – quite frequently explored in this work – sublime. Only very occasionally is she betrayed by her English pronunciation. Since a child is meant to be speaking, the very opulence of the voice might be thought inappropriate, but Barber understood that it was Agee’s adult voice that was recalling this nostalgic scene, and his music reflects this. At a fairly deliberate main tempo, Gillet evokes the evening in the garden with the family, doing not much of anything, hardly even talking. The scene is calm, hot and perfumed. The animated middle section, with its noise of streetcars, is particularly dramatic in this performance. Then comes the heart of the work, in which the different members of the family are presented, describing them in simple, childlike detail. The line “one is my mother who is good to me” – this never fails to bring a flutter to my foolish old heart, not to mention a tear to my foolish old eye – is delivered here with just the rapture that the composer surely intended. There are some surprises, such as the final phrase, “but will not ever tell me who I am”, usually sung wistfully, is delivered here full voice, with a dramatic little crescendo added on the final note. It’s not the only way to do it, but it convinces. I now find it difficult to imagine this adorable, short masterpiece better done.
Les Illuminations is a probably a masterpiece too. At the very least, the brilliance and precocity of the writing from such a young man cannot be denied. Even so, I have never quite been able to “get” this work, no doubt in part because I’ve never quite “got” Rimbaud’s poetry, and a still, small voice whispers in my ear that maybe Britten didn’t either. To put it more seriously, I think that, almost uniquely in his career, he didn’t get to the heart of the texts he was setting. In “Being Beauteous”, for example, one appreciates the translation into music of the languid sensuality of the words, but it doesn’t feel like the whole story. The performance, however, is magnificent. The opening fanfares have sounded tauter in other performances, not least in the classic from Peter Pears conducted by the composer. But the soprano’s very first phrase confirms that here is a singer able to invest almost every note, every word, with character. Her downward glissando from the high B flat in “Phrase” is as ravishing as I have ever heard it, and the following “Antique” opens with a most attractive smile and continues with almost uncanny narrative skill. I think the tempo for “Royauté” is too fast both for the music and for the words, not really “majestic” as the score demands. I also find that the silences between these short songs is too long. But the coloratura in the following “Marine” is brilliant, and the singer’s control of line makes for a closing “Départ” – for me the most sincere and most successful song of the whole set – convincing and very touching.
If I have doubts about Britten’s way with Rimbaud, I believe that Les Nuits d’été is a near-perfect marriage of words and music. Régine Crespin and Janet Baker are hors de combat in this repertoire, but in recent years I have come to admire, even to prefer, the performance by Véronique Gens with the Lyons Opera Orchestra conducted by Louis Langrée, recorded by Virgin in 2000. She has more of the mezzo in her voice than does Gillet, and that without sacrificing anything in the way of brilliance up top. She has rather more variety of tone colour overall, too, using it to tease just a little more meaning out of the words. So this new version doesn’t quite topple my favourite reading, but it comes very close, because once again the Belgian soprano sings with such ardent and open-hearted sincerity that the listener is won over. She is eager and impulsive in the first and last songs, and the tragic songs of mourning are powerfully expressed. The Liège orchestra’s playing is first class throughout, and Paul Daniel accompanies his singer most sensitively, whilst, in the Berlioz particularly, bringing out felicities of scoring that are not always heard with such clarity.
The disc is beautifully recorded. Just occasionally, in quiet passages, the voice might cover some orchestral detail, but this is a marginal problem. The singer presents the programme in the interesting booklet interview previously mentioned, and information on the performers, plus all the texts, are included too, in French and English. Not to be missed!
William Hedley


































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.