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Birtwistle: Gawain / Howarth, Howells, Le Roux, Tomlinson, Angel

Release Date: 08/12/2014 
Label:  Nmc   Catalog #: 200   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Harrison Birtwistle
Performer:  John TomlinsonAnne HowellsFrançois Le RouxMarie Angel,   ... 
Conductor:  Elgar Howarth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden OrchestraRoyal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Collins should be commended for bringing to disc with reasonable promptness a performance of Birtwistle’s opera Gawain, only five years old yet already occupying an impressive niche in the gallery of recent British music. Collins has chosen a BBC broadcast from the 1994 Covent Garden revival, a reading conducted by Elgar Howarth that balances the need both of voices to be clearly heard and of the instrumental textures to speak in their own right. Already a familiar sound from the composer’s Earth Dances of 1986, the opera’s violent orchestral melos echoes in the memory long after Gawain’s journeys to and from the Green Chapel are over. No less persistent for the listener is a lingering satisfaction that such a uniquely personal musical Read more style has found the exact means of its own dramatic expression. Even the difficulties of Birtwistle’s language seem ameliorated by this recording. Heard with a careful prior reading of David Harsent’s libretto, and with a healthy regard for the magic and mystery that in childhood stories kept us spellbound, the opera transfers easily to the theatre of the imagination. Already much praised, the individual performers clarify their roles with a striking concordance of vocal tone and character. Omar Ebrahim’s Fool and Richard Greager’s King Arthur project dismal irony and weakness respectively. John Tomlinson and François Le Roux quicken the Green Knight and Gawain into such lifelike reality that the need of the plotters – Marie Angel’s Morgan le Fay and Anne Howells’s Lady de Hautdesert – to wreck the complacent Arthurian court becomes less a mythical given than a genuine ethical drama.

--Nicholas Williams, BBC Music Magazine
Reviewing original release of this recording, Collins 70412
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Works on This Recording

Gawain by Harrison Birtwistle
Performer:  John Tomlinson (Bass), Anne Howells (Mezzo Soprano), François Le Roux (Baritone),
Marie Angel (Soprano), Penelope Walmsley-Clark (Soprano)
Conductor:  Elgar Howarth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus

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