With Benjamin Britten's 30th anniversary just around the corner, all praise to Decca for the release of this third volume of Britten Conducts Britten. It is fairly obvious that space constraints preclude me from commenting on any of the works, but with many of them having attained considerable popularity, I reckon that my views will not be missed.
Apart from Noye's Fludde conducted by Norman del Mar and the Cantata Academica conducted by George Malcolm, all the works in this memorable set are under the baton of the composer, giving the listener a chance to assess Britten conducting his own works.
The War Requiem will always be looked upon as the composer's most profound and disturbing utterance and the preferential treatment given to it in this collection is more than deserved. In fact it is the only work which one can hear rehearsed (on CD #10) giving its many admirers a detailed insight on how Britten worked when it came to interpreting his own music.
As is to be expected, sound quality is slightly variable, but is generally of the high standards one has come to expect from Decca. These takes were made over a long time span of around 17 years (1953-70) and the producers and engineers responsible were some of the finest ever to work for the company. One cannot but have praise for the sterling work of John Culshaw, Ray Minshull, James Walker, Erik Smith, Gordon Parry, Kenneth Wilkinson and James Lock are the stuff of what legends are made of. An important document then from one of England's greatest 20th century composers.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech