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Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake

Audio Samples

>Britten, Benjamin : Lemady, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Song Arrangements)
>Britten, Benjamin : She's like the swallow, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Song Arrangements)
>Niles, John Jacob : I Wonder As I Wander
>Britten, Benjamin : Tom Bowling and Other Song Arrangements, for voice & piano
>Britten, Benjamin : Songs and Proverbs of W. Blake, song cycle for baritone & piano, Op. 74
>Britten, Benjamin : Tit for Tat
>Britten, Benjamin : Um Mitternacht, song for high voice & piano
>Britten, Benjamin : A Poison Tree, for medium voice & piano
>Britten, Benjamin : Evening, Morning, Night, songs (3) for medium voice & piano or harp (from "The Way to the Tomb")
>Britten, Benjamin : British Folk Songs (8)
>     David of the White Rock
>Britten, Benjamin : Greensleeves, folksong arrangement for high voice & piano
>Anonymous : Crocodile
>Traditional, American : The Deaf Woman's Courtship, song
>Britten, Benjamin : Bird Scarer's Song, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Songs Arrangements)

Album Summary

>Britten, Benjamin : Lemady, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Song Arrangements)
>Britten, Benjamin : She's like the swallow, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Song Arrangements)
>Niles, John Jacob : I Wonder As I Wander
>Britten, Benjamin : Tom Bowling and Other Song Arrangements, for voice & piano
>Britten, Benjamin : Songs and Proverbs of W. Blake, song cycle for baritone & piano, Op. 74
>Britten, Benjamin : Tit for Tat
>Britten, Benjamin : Um Mitternacht, song for high voice & piano
>Britten, Benjamin : A Poison Tree, for medium voice & piano
>Britten, Benjamin : Evening, Morning, Night, songs (3) for medium voice & piano or harp (from "The Way to the Tomb")
>Britten, Benjamin : British Folk Songs (8)
>Britten, Benjamin : Greensleeves, folksong arrangement for high voice & piano
>Anonymous : Crocodile
>Traditional, American : The Deaf Woman's Courtship, song
>Britten, Benjamin : Bird Scarer's Song, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Songs Arrangements)
Performers Composers

Notes & Reviews:

The unbeatable , multi-award-winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake turns to the composer Benjamin Britten for their latest Hyper ion release. Although Britten is particularly celebrated for the substantial body of music he composed for the tenor voice, the composer also left an important legacy of music for baritone. In addition to song-cycles, individual songs and folksong arrangements, Britten also included challenging baritone roles in his operas. This disc contains Britten's two important song cycles for baritone - Tit for Tat, setting the poems of Walter de la Mare, and the more substantial Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. The latter was written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; designed to showcase his unique blend of intense lyricism and dramatic characterization, qualities which are undoubtedly also exhibited by Gerald Finley. Also included are some of Britten's popular folksong settings, and a selection of later songs, which received exposure and publication only after the composer's death.

"Canadian Gerald Finely proves once again that he is among today's finest singers and song interpreters, and here is another display of his awesome technique, commanding expression, and vocal beauty...Finley and Drake have collaborated many times (Barber, Ives, Ravel), and it certainly shows in their knowing communication through repertoire that makes quite varied demands on both performers. Hyperion's recording is absolutely first-rate, and so is this entire production--a well-conceived and ideally performed showcase for both composer and singer." - Classics Today (10/10)

'Finley as ever acquits himself as a fine singer, a conscientious artist and a thoroughly reliable musician ... Julius Drake is the superb pianist' (Gramophone)

'Gerald Finley sings them all with such an unwaveringly beautiful tone and attention to every syllable, and pianist Julian Drake is so wonderfully attuned to the baritone's inflections ... Finley comes into his own in the final Every Night and Every Morn, and Drake's handling of the powerfully wrought accompaniments is superb. Those who have followed them through their series of 20th-century songs for Hyperion (Barber, Ives, Ravel previously) won't be disappointed with this one either' (The Guardian)

'If you want to know, or simply need reminding, why Gerald Finley is up there in the Premier League of baritone recitalists then strike out for the final five songs on this magnificent new recording ... [Songs and Proverbs of William Blake] Originally written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Finley proves himself the equal of his noble predecessor, both in expressivity and emotional weight. How good it is to have this difficult music available in such a fine modern performance ... It is a mark of the quality of these two fine artists that everything on this new release should sound newly minted' (International Record Review)

'The Canadian baritone has already impressed with his outstanding diction in three albums of North American song for Hyperion. Now he turns to the repertoire that Britten wrote for two of his favourite baritones: Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) and Tit for Tat (John Shirley-Quirk) ... Tit for Tat displays the young composer's prodigious melodic gift and his savour of words. Finley's noble baritone is a richer-coloured instrument than Shirley-Quirk's ... In the Blake settings, Finley naturally sounds more at home with the English texts than Fischer-Dieskau ever did ... Finley's watchwords are directness and clarity, both of which come across to splendid effect in the folk-song arrangements ... Drake is his admirable partner in this outstanding enterprise' (The Sunday Times)

'This marvellous CD showcases the songs Britten wrote for the baritones Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, John Shirley-Quirk and Benjamin Luxon - music that Finley, at the peak of his very considerable powers, makes his own with the pianist Julius Drake ... [Songs and Proverbs of William Blake] Finley lends it the very beauty and intelligence and ecstatic vocalism it needs, without the mannerisms of Fischer-Dieskau' (The Financial Times)

'Fischer-Dieskau's recording from 1965 carries massive authority, but this new recording tops it ... Everythng [Finley] sings has a feeling of emotional truth, without any artfulness. That's a great asset in these songs ... Finley makes Blake's aphorisms ring out with the force of an Old Testament prophet' (The Daily Telegraph)

"Although not directly mentioned in the notes to this excellent recording--nor is it clear from the disc cover, the program consists of a trove of rarely-heard songs from both early and late in Britten's career, including the delightfully humorous "The Deaf Woman's Courtship" and "The Crocodile". We also hear two very different but equally affecting versions of "A Poison Tree", one as part of the Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, the other a much earlier setting from 1935 that didn't receive its first performance until 10 years after Britten's death. Another song whose first recording was delayed (until 1995, because of copyright issues) is "I wonder as I wander", and the group of three songs "Evening", "Morning", and "Night" (with texts by Ronald Duncan) weren't published until 1988.

Many of these songs were written or arranged for the recitals given by Britten and tenor Peter Pears, but this recording's big work, the Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, was conceived for Britten's friend and musical colleague, baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; likewise, the group of five songs with texts by Walter de la Mare, Tit for Tat, was created for baritone, this time John Shirley-Quirk. Of course the measure of the Blake cycle will always be the Decca recording by Britten and Fischer-Dieskau, and certainly the German baritone's masterful and thoroughly captivating use of vocal shading and color, his refined expressive nuances (the sighing little slides in the Proverbs), and his interpretive oneness with Britten remain unmatched. Having said that, Canadian Gerald Finely proves once again that he is among today's finest singers and song interpreters, and here is another display of his awesome technique, commanding expression, and vocal beauty.

Finley's baritone often is described as "golden", and that's absolutely true here, but the tone is also rich and full and warm, his assured technique enabling a perfect legato and exclamatory emphasis that's invariably convincing, his interpretive instincts never letting loose a note of false drama. He's capable of light, delicate singing that's every bit as emotionally powerful as the more forcefully dynamic moments--compare the unaccompanied "I wonder as I wander" or the mysterious "Silver" or "The Chimney-Sweeper" with any of the more intense passages in the Blake songs, for instance. And you can't help but be impressed with and completely charmed by Finley's playful and stylish performance of "The Crocodile" or with the sheer fun he brings to "The Deaf Woman's Courtship", happily aided and abetted by his piano partner Julius Drake.

Finley and Drake have collaborated many times (Barber, Ives, Ravel--see Reviews), and it certainly shows in their knowing communication through repertoire that makes quite varied demands on both performers. Hyperion's recording is absolutely first-rate, and so is this entire production--a well-conceived and ideally performed showcase for both composer and singer."-classicstoday.com

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008).



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Works Details

>Britten, Benjamin : Lemady, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Song Arrangements)
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 21 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: circa 1976

>Britten, Benjamin : She's like the swallow, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Song Arrangements)
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 43 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: circa 1976

>Niles, John Jacob : I Wonder As I Wander
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: circa 1925

>Britten, Benjamin : Tom Bowling and Other Song Arrangements, for voice & piano
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 39 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Britten, Benjamin : Songs and Proverbs of W. Blake, song cycle for baritone & piano, Op. 74
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1965

>Britten, Benjamin : Tit for Tat
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 9 min. 25 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1931

>Britten, Benjamin : Um Mitternacht, song for high voice & piano
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 41 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: circa 1960

>Britten, Benjamin : A Poison Tree, for medium voice & piano
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1935

>Britten, Benjamin : Evening, Morning, Night, songs (3) for medium voice & piano or harp (from "The Way to the Tomb")
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 4 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1945

>Britten, Benjamin : British Folk Songs (8) :: David of the White Rock
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 33 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1976

>Britten, Benjamin : Greensleeves, folksong arrangement for high voice & piano
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 11 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: circa 1941

>Anonymous : Crocodile
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 21 sec.

>Traditional, American : The Deaf Woman's Courtship, song
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 31 sec.

>Britten, Benjamin : Bird Scarer's Song, folksong for voice & harp (8 Folk Songs Arrangements)
  • Performers: Julius Drake (Piano); Gerald Finley
  • Notes: All Saints, Durham Road, East Finchley, London (12/11/2008-12/13/2008)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: circa 1976