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Britten: Billy Budd / Hickox, Langridge, Keenlyslide, et al

Album Summary

>Britten, Benjamin : Billy Budd, Op. 50
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"...played, as here, with such incomparable polish by all concerned, and a proper respect for dynamics, balance and detail, 'Billy Budd' emerges as generously hearted as 19th-century verismo, as intimate as Lieder and as dramatically impregnated as Wagner. Vocally, too, this is a 'Budd' to treasure, with a trio of principals...and a supporting crew (chorus included) unanimously adept in marrying singing line to crisp verbal enunciation..." ***** -Bye, BBC Magazine

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
Britten's score is so often praised that we tend to neglect the distinction of Forster and Crozier's libretto, sung in this set with unerring conviction by its three principals. Keenlyside and Langridge deserve special mention for their arresting sensitivity throughout the final scenes, when they make the utterances of Billy and Vere so poetic and moving: refined tone allied to eloquent phrasing - the epitome of English singing at its very best. Keenlyside has a voice of just the right weight and an appreciation of how Billy must be at once sympathetic and manly. From first to last you realise the lad's personal magnetism in vocal terms alone, explaining the crew's admiration for his qualities. Langridge is the complete Vere, suggesting the man's easy command of men, his poetic soul, his agony of mind at the awful decision placed in his hands to sacrifice Billy. At the opposite end of the human spectrum, Claggart's dark, twisted being and his depravity of thought are ideally realised by Tomlinson, give or take one or two moments of unsteadiness when his voice comes under pressure. In supporting roles there's also much to admire. Mark Padmore conveys all the Novice's terror in a very immediate, tortured manner. Clive Bayley's Dansker is full of canny wisdom. Alan Opie is a resolute Mr Redburn.

Matthew Best's is an appropriately powerful Mr Flint, though his large, gritty bass-baritone records uneasily.

Hickox conducts with all his old zest for marshalling large forces, searching out every cranny of the score, and the London Symphony forces respond with real virtuosity. Speeds now and again sound a shade too deliberate, and there's not always quite that sense of an ongoing continuum you feel in both of Britten's readings, which are by and large tauter. But the Chandos, using the revised two-act version, comes into most direct competition with Britten's later Decca set. The latter still sounds well, though inevitably it hasn't the aural range of the Chandos recording. Yet nobody will ever quite catch the creative tension the composer brings to his own work. For all that, the Chandos set benefits from this trio of imaginative singers, and most newcomers will be satisfied with its appreciable achievement.

Penguin Guide
"the finest cast of principals yet assembled...In Philip Langridge the role of Vere has found its most thoughtful interpreter yet...Comparably magnetic is John Tomlinson's Claggart, the personification of evil, chillingly malevolent in every inflexion...Keenlyside as Billy gains over all rivals in the fresh, youthful incisiveness of the voice

Maurice Millward, Presto Classical, March 2014
An outstanding trio of principals - Philip Langridge's erudite, conflicted Captain Vere, Simon Keenlyside's virile yet innocent-sounding Billy and John Tomlinson's pitch-black Claggart. The smaller roles, too, are beautifully characterised, with cameos from young British singers who would go on to make their mark as front-ranking interpreters of Britten's music."


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Works Details

>Britten, Benjamin : Billy Budd, Op. 50
  • Performers: John Tomlinson (Bass); Philip Langridge; Simon Keenlyside (Baritone)
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Ensemble: Tiffin School Boys Chorus
  • Notes: Blackheath Halls, London, England (12/03/1999-12/10/1999)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 9 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1951