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CD Review

Britten / Berkeley

Naxos 8.557204

Auden Songs

  • Lennox Berkeley:
  • Five Poems, Op. 53
  • Night covers up the rigid land, Op. 14 #2
  • Lay your sleeping head, my love, Op. 14 #2b
  • Benjamin Britten:
  • On this Island, Op. 11
  • Fish in the unruffled lakes
  • Night covers up the rigid land
  • To lie flat on the back
  • The sun shines down
  • What's on your mind?
  • Cabaret Songs
  • When you're feeling like expressing your affection
  • Underneath the abject willow
Philip Langridge & Della Jones
Steuart Bedford, piano
Naxos 8.557204 61m
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan

This is an excellent CD re-issue, but one which I am unable to recommend. The problem, as so often, is with the presentation, specifically the unavailability of texts, which is more than a trivial frustration in this case.

Only a few of the poems are included in W H Auden's Selected Poems (Faber & Faber). If they had all been printed with the original Collins Classics CD of these fine performances, a possible remedy might be for Naxos to publish them on their website, if allowed?

Other critics regularly traverse this theme, a hobby-horse of mine; we are all at one in our priorities, which often differ from those of the record companies and their presentation departments.

No criticism of the recording nor of the impeccable diction of both singers, Philip Langridge & Della Jones. The Cabaret Songs, with their punch lines, are clearly intended to be grasped aurally, but this is not so for the elusive and allusive Auden poems in the body of this programme. John Steane in the October Gramophone expresses his irritation, emphasising how "… W H Auden's words insistently proclaim importance; they challenge the intelligence, they can hardly be assimilated in time with the music…".

Steuart Bedford's piano playing is keen and pointed, and makes a large contribution to the musical success of this worthwhile enterprise. His special quality, in what used to be called "accompanying" before Gerald Moore, comes through in this well planned programme, so I am pleased to have the CD – even without the words.

Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf

Trumpet