« »

Britten, Benjamin: Peter Grimes CD EMI 1993

Britten: Peter Grimes (CD)


Peter Grimes, Op. 33
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Conductor: Bernard Haitink
Ellen Orford: Felicity Lott
Niece I: Maria Bovino
Niece II: Gillian Webster
Mrs Sedley: Sarah Walker
Auntie: Patricia Payne
Peter Grimes: Anthony Rolfe-Johnson
Bob Boles: Stuart Kale
Rev Horace Adams: Neil Jenkins
Balstrode: Thomas Allen
Ned Keene: Simon Keenlyside
Swallow: Stafford Dean
Hobson: David Wilson-Johnson
Christopher Lackner
Richard Hazell (Bass)
Tom Cregan
Karen Robertson
Christopher Keyte (Bass)
Donaldson Bell (Baritone)
John Winfield (Tenor)
Jonathan Fisher (Baritone)
Edward Parry
Jonathan Coad
Lola Biagioni (Soprano)
Robbie Gill
Michael Skinner (Drum)
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Chorus and Orchestra
Label: EMI
Code: CDS7 54832-2
Venue and Recording Date: Watford Town Hall, London, June 1992
Released: October 1, 1999; re-released 2008
Number of discs: 2
ASIN: B000007O0Y


What the critics say

Reviewed by Alan Blyth for Gramophone July 1993

“…Young Simon Keenlyside takes over Ned Keene and sings him with even more point than Allen and Evans (Decca).”


David Shengold, Opera News, June  2008 , vol 72 , no.12

Editor’s Choice

Grimes is at his exercise

EMI reissues Bernard Haitink’s beautifully played, satisfyingly cast Peter Grimes.

This reissued Peter Grimes from 1992, led by Bernard Haitink, stands as the third — and to date, the last — complete audio recording of the 1945 masterwork to be made at London’s Royal Opera House. It followed the composer’s own 1958 version for Decca, starring creator Peter Pears, and Colin Davis’s more elemental 1978 Philips set, with the epochal Grimes of Jon Vickers. Vickers is sui generis, and for many of us who heard him live, he remains unforgettable in the role.

However, the tenor’s many departures from word, note and rhythm make the thrilling Davis set (and the video version that followed three years later) a fit record of Vickers as Grimes. Home listeners and those new to this inspired score may well want something less extreme and more canonical. It may seem perverse, but in that case, rather than choosing the composer and creator’s version, I would counsel this fine set, more beautifully — if, for better or worse, less idiosyncratically — played, and certainly more satisfyingly cast than Britten’s studio effort. (A non-ROH version, recorded under Richard Hickox in 1995, and Davis’s 2004 concert performance with the London Symphony Orchestra have their merits, but both suffer from some debatable major casting.)

Haitink, who also helmed Glyndebourne video versions of Albert Herring and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, relishes the Britten idiom. Here the maestro achieves the kind of clarity and lyricism he brings to Mahler slow movements; other conductors have highlighted the score’s edgier moments with more thrust.
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, with his ravishing lyric tenor and acute verbal and musical sensitivity, is certainly the most dulcet Grimes on records, able to execute the melismatic subtleties and unorthodox intervals crafted for Pears but with far fresher and more liquid tone than the role’s creator could muster. Rolfe Johnson is also very moving, if never especially frightening. He sang seven Met Grimes performances in December 1994, five of which also featured Sarah Walker as Mrs. Sedley; she’s in fine fettle here, every word pointed and clear.

Felicity Lott brings lyric tonal beauty and expressive musicality to Ellen’s often exquisite writing; Act II demands a grander vocal format, but she’s very winning. Thomas Allen, though also in principle somewhat light and high for Balstrode, brings his great artistry and still-handsome tone to his detailed, satisfying portrayal. A former Ned Keene (including for the Davis-led video), Allen here commands a mellowed voice sufficiently different from that of the excellent, fresh Simon Keenlyside in that key role. Stafford Dean makes an unctuous, clearly uttered if somewhat hollow-voiced Swallow. The two comprimario tenors, Stuart Kale (Boles) and Neil Jenkins (Rev. Adams), are both distinguished exponents of Britten’s music; their delivery and tone are well contrasted. The only relatively weak link is mezzo Patricia Payne. A game Mrs. Sedley for Davis in 1978, she is unimpressive as Auntie here: the tone is too frequently downright ugly, and the words are often occluded.

The choral responses, vocal positioning and occasional use of laughs, cries and noises create a theatrical atmosphere. Like all operas in this series of mid-price reissues, the set offers only an essay and synopsis; one can download a libretto from EMI’s website.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment