I fail to understand EMI's marketing concepts with this one! Picking two
already available works from different CDs and packaging them into one is
a good thing but when the other two releases remain freely available, then
you will obviously undermine the sales potential of your new release. But
anyway, there are much riches to be had from this all-Britten/Bostridge issue.
The dark Serenade reveals Bostridge's highly cultured penchant for the composer,
indeed he is obviously the heir to the great Peter Pears who made the Serenade
his own (it was obviously dedicated to him).
Recently I was listening to Jerry Hadley's rather foursquare account of this
work on a budget price Nimbus set which confirms that Bostridge is in a different
league altogether. He finds great pathos in the 'Dirge' and exquisite tenderness
in the charming 'Spinet' whilst the shattering Epilogue leaves one with a
sense of hopelessness, almost reminiscent of Owen's war poetry. I was surprised
to find Ingo Metzmacher's accompaniment so thoroughly involved but it now
is apparent that British music is an international format and it gives must
joy to find such cultured music making from a German orchestra.
The other work on disc is 'Our Hunting Fathers' an earlier song cycle based
on steep tradition. This time, Bostridge is accompanied by the British Sinfonia,
a small chamber-like ensemble which is deeply rooted in the composer school.
This gives a more intimate setting to the music especially in the pathos
and grim 'Funeral Music' which sounds ever so stark and depressing. Bostridge
is definitely in his element, relishing the impressive vocal ranges that
Britten throws at him and we can definitely appraise this version as well-nigh
Two short folksongs are sandwiched between the major works and make good
interludes, I was unfamiliar with both and they pleased me immensely. Of
course, one cannot discount Pears' Decca versions but for a good modern digital
version of both works, Ian Bostridge is the man of the moment in Britten.