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Britten: Death in Venice / Hickox, Chance, Langridge

Album Summary

>Britten, Benjamin : Death in Venice, opera, Op. 88
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"...Maybe Richard Hickox is getting bored with praise, but here's some more. This is another major achievement for him, taped last year in Blackheath Concert Halls. Sound is spectacular and real, with well-considered, subtle dramatic production... The score was Britten's most extended instrumental masterpiece since 'The Prince of the Pagodas,' and Hickox relates the oppressive atmosphere to Busoni's 'Faust' (strongly), as well as to Berg, Mahler, and West-Coasters like Lou Harrison..." -Fanfare

BBC Music Magazine
The Pears/Bedford version tends to emphasise the opera's elegiac side... The Chandos... is certainly not lacking in depth. But it also has an incisive clarity matching Richard Hickox's generally more urgent approach to expression and tempo, and the more anguished Aschenbach of Philip Langridge... His riveting intensity is finely supported by Alan Opie's increasingly sinister evocation of the succession of characters who convey Aschenbach to his doom; easily a match for John Shirley-Quirk on the Decca set, as is the new Apollo of Michael Chance for that of James Bowman.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
This recording in Richard Hickox's Britten series is beautifully played and recorded, and in its all-important central role reunites Hickox with Philip Langridge, so compelling in their earlier set of Peter Grimes. Britten tailored the role of Aschenbach so perfectly for Peter Pears's inimitable tenor that it's unlikely any other singer will find it an easy fit. A few years ago Langridge might have been more adept than he is now at handling some of the high-lying lyrical lines, but the compromises in this department are worth making for a singer who's so penetrating in dramatic insight. Hardly a page of the score passes without his vivid delivery opening up some new dimension of the role. As the drama deepens he progressively strips the soul of Aschenbach bare.

His two main colleagues perform to an equally high level. Alan Opie is still in his vocal prime and all seven of his multifarious Dionysiac characters are sharply delineated. The excellent Michael Chance is more ethereal as the Voice of Apollo than James Bowman, and for that reason is preferable by a whisker.

As always, Hickox takes his time over the score, but there's less sense of self-indulgence than in some of his earlier Britten recordings.

He raws playing of high quality and generosity of feeling from the City of London Sinfonia.

Add an exemplary choral contribution from the BBC Singers and a typically atmospheric Chandos recording, and there's no reason to resist.

Penguin Guide
...matches and in many ways even outshines the fine model of the original recording...Langridge proves an inspired interpreter of the role of Ashenbach [sic], more passionate than Pears, and in his death scene he is even more poignant...Add to that Hickox's powerful, finely-timed pacing of a work which is largely meditative, and the result is totally magnetic.


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Works Details

>Britten, Benjamin : Death in Venice, opera, Op. 88
  • Performers: Jennifer Adams-Barbaro; Ildikó Allen; Julia Batchelor (Voice); Simon Birchall; John Bowley (Tenor); Michael Chance; Stephen Charlesworth (Baritone); Paul Charrier (Bass); Richard Fallas (Bass); Margaret Feaviour (Soprano); Christopher Foster (Bass); Carolyn Foulkes (Soprano); Ian Kennedy (Tenor); Vernon Kirk (Tenor); Philip Langridge; Stuart MacIntyre (Voice); Eleanor Meynell (Soprano); Andrew Murgatroyd (Tenor); Alan Opie; Elizabeth Poole (Soprano); Edward Price (Baritone); Olivia Robinson (Soprano); David Roy (Tenor); Philip Salmon (Tenor); Alison Smart (Soprano); Graham Titus (Baritone)
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Ensemble: BBC Singers
  • Notes: Blackheath Halls, London, England (07/21/2004-07/24/2004)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 38 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1973