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Britten: The Canticles / Ben Johnson, tenor; James Baillieu, piano

Audio Samples

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle I
>     My Beloved Is Mine, for high voice & piano, Op. 40
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle II, Op. 51 "Abraham and Isaac"
>     Abraham and Isaac, for alto, tenor & piano, Op. 51
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle III, Op. 55 "Still Falls the Rain"
>     Still Falls the Rain, for tenor, horn & piano, Op. 55
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle IV
>     The Journey of the Magi, for countertenor, tenor, baritone & piano, Op. 86
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle V
>     The Death of St Narcissus, for tenor & harp, Op. 89

Album Summary

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle I
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle II, Op. 51 "Abraham and Isaac"
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle III, Op. 55 "Still Falls the Rain"
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle IV
>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle V
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

As part of the celebration of Britten's Centenery in 2013, this new recording presents Britten's five Canticles, performed by tenor Ben Johnson with James Baillieu accompanying. Ben Johnson describes his attraction to these works in his self-penned notes for the disc: "Each is deep with meaning or subversion, a trademark of Britten's music to a modern audience. In their very performance they glide through such variety of style that it makes them wonderfully difficult to categorize. They are song, opera, cantata and chamber music, and so they correspond with the most delicate of intimacy and to the most effective of grand gesture ... In his biography of Britten, Humphrey Carpenter points out the close links between the Canticles and Britten's operas. This answers in part their difference from the 'usual' song repertoire: their religious flavor (a stronger taste in some than others) mixed with the circumstances of their composition make for a unique strand in Britten's output."

The Guardian, 14th February 2013
If the other vocal contributions don't always quite match Johnson's impeccable phrasing and subtle control and colouring, this is nonetheless a superb collection containing some of the most intensely beautiful of all Britten's vocal writing.

The Independent, 22nd February 2013
The most intriguing realisations are those on which tenor Ben Johnson is joined by other voices.

The Times, 1st March 2013
There's nothing precious or pained about Ben Johnson's tenor in his admirable recording of the five Canticles. The tone is sturdy, open and direct.

Gramophone Magazine, June 2013
At a few points [Johnson's] singing could do with more poetry to the sound but the unaffected honesty of his singing is always welcome...this new release from Signum Classics is a contender well worth hearing.

International Record Review, June 2013
This is a beautiful recording...Johnson resists any tendency to to over-dramatize these gentle, intimate works and he gives performances that are wholly involving, thanks to the subtle colouring of his voice, the eloquence of his phrasing and the real understanding he shows for the texts.

BBC Music Magazine, August 2013
The expressive nuance of James Baillieu's piano accompanying is reminiscent of Britten's own...Johnson is at his best in Still Falls the Rain and in The Death of Narcissus, in writing that reveals the strength and changing colours throughout his tenor register - just as Britten had intended with the voice of Peter Pears.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Maida Vale Studio 2, London, England (04/11/2012-04/13/2012).



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Works Details

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle I :: My Beloved Is Mine, for high voice & piano, Op. 40
  • Performers: Ben Johnson; James Baillieu (Piano)
  • Notes: Maida Vale Studio 2, London, England (04/11/2012-04/13/2012)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1947

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle II, Op. 51 "Abraham and Isaac" :: Abraham and Isaac, for alto, tenor & piano, Op. 51
  • Performers: Ben Johnson; Christopher Ainslie; James Baillieu (Piano)
  • Notes: Maida Vale Studio 2, London, England (04/11/2012-04/13/2012)
  • Running Time: 17 min. sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1952

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle III, Op. 55 "Still Falls the Rain" :: Still Falls the Rain, for tenor, horn & piano, Op. 55
  • Performers: Ben Johnson; James Baillieu (Piano); Martin Owen (Horn)
  • Notes: Maida Vale Studio 2, London, England (04/11/2012-04/13/2012)
  • Running Time: 12 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1954

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle IV :: The Journey of the Magi, for countertenor, tenor, baritone & piano, Op. 86
  • Performers: Ben Johnson; Christopher Ainslie; James Baillieu (Piano); Benedict Nelson
  • Notes: Maida Vale Studio 2, London, England (04/11/2012-04/13/2012)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1971

>Britten, Benjamin : Canticle V :: The Death of St Narcissus, for tenor & harp, Op. 89
  • Performers: Ben Johnson; Lucy Wakeford (Harp)
  • Notes: Maida Vale Studio 2, London, England (04/11/2012-04/13/2012)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 39 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1974