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Britten: Billy Budd / Hickox, Langridge, Keenlyslide, Et Al

Release Date: 06/27/2000 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 9826   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Quentin HayesClive BayleyRichard CoxonRichard Whitehouse,   ... 
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony ChorusTiffin School Boys Chorus
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 45 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is the first complete recording of the revised, two-act version of Billy Budd to appear since the one led by the composer appeared in 1968. A previously un-released "private" recording of the four-act version with the original cast showed up in 1994 and shed great light on Britten's growth and approach to drama, and just two years back, Kent Nagano led the same version with Thomas Hampson in the title role on Erato. This present recording is a stunning achievement and pushes all of the others out of the first place slot.

Richard Hickox is absolutely sympathetic to the opera and leads with great understanding for the unfolding tragedy. His tempos are a bit slower
Read more throughout than Britten's and this, along with his cast's diction and Chandos' fine ability to record the English language, means that almost every word is discernible, even in the huge, aborted battle scene in Act Two and the heavily orchestrated Billy/Dansker duet that ends Act One. Hickox gets the sadness of the lone saxophone just right after the flogging in Act One, captures the nervous excitement of the almost-battle scene, and gives us Billy's good-natured enthusiasm as distinctly as he underscores Claggart's evil with its low, menacing accompaniment.

And his singers are first rate. Simon Keenlyside becomes the Billy for the ages: the voice is beautiful, his involvement is complete, and his outpourings of love and desperation ring sincere. Philip Langridge's Vere is in a class with Peter Pears' but his voice is richer and more easily produced. It's a beautiful, sad performance. In John Tomlinson's portrayal of Claggart there is more than just villainy--the sadism and unctuousness that sometimes are missing are truly apparent here--and it's very ugly indeed. Alan Opie and Matthew Best are stalwart and clear-headed as Redburn and Flint, respectively, and in Mark Padmore and Richard Coxon we discover how crucial the roles of the Novice and Squeak actually are. Clive Bailey's Dansker is colorful and compassionate, and the remainder of the cast--including the adult and children's choruses--is superlative. Needless to say, the LSO plays brilliantly. This Billy Budd is the desert island pick--two acts or four.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Billy Budd, Op. 50 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Quentin Hayes (Baritone), Clive Bayley (Bass), Richard Coxon (Tenor),
Richard Whitehouse (Baritone), Timothy Du Fore (Baritone), Mark Padmore (Tenor),
Christopher Keyte (Baritone), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Daniel Norman (Tenor),
Francis Egerton (Tenor), Alex Johnston (Treble), Philip Langridge (Tenor),
John Tomlinson (Bass), Simon Keenlyside (Baritone), Alan Opie (Baritone),
Matthew Best (Bass Baritone), Alan Ewing (Bass)
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  Tiffin School Boys Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951/1960; England 
Date of Recording: 12/1999 
Venue:  Blackheath Halls, London, England 
Length: 164 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Version: 1960 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Powerful, indispensable. October 26, 2012 By Rory R. (Winnipeg, MB) See All My Reviews "Though one wouldn't be without the composer's own reading, it is likely we won't get a more powerful performance than the Hickox/Keenleyside essay of what might be considered Britten's greatest opera in the near future. Keenleyside is a soaring, beautiful presence as Billy, and Langridge, though he could be a little more forceful, a suitably tortured Vere. This performance, though, belongs to conductor Richard Hickox, whose somewhat slower, detailed, intense reading brings out the moral ambiguity so inherent in not only Britten's opera but the original Melville story. Any future consideration of the work must include this performance." Report Abuse
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