Peter Pears gives the words their full due and sings with sensitive mastery, while Julian Bream plays with unfailing affection. The enthralling music and superb performances makes this out-of-the-way record a joy.
To a very considerable extent this record is a tribute to Julian Bream's playing; had he not been around, the two song cycles and the Britten folk-song arrangements (and for all I know, other items too) would never have been written. And very enjoyable it all is. The two song-cycles are, I think, near each other in quality, but some way apart in effect, for the Britten is obviously written to suit Peter Pears and Julian Bream, whereas the Walton seems at times to be written, as it were, against them. Thus theRead more second song needs to be sung (I apologize for the word) saucily, the fifth with a degree of inebriations, and they are not really within Pears's emotional range. You might think the last one beyond the powers of most singers, so difficult is it, but in fact Pears makes a very good shot at it, and it is surprisingly effective. But Lady, when I behold the roses seems better suited to the performers' style and, a lovely song, it comes off without any sense of strain. The words of these songs ("chosen by Christopher Hassall"—why didn't Walton choose them?) all date from the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, and their charm is among the cycle's chief attractions.
The Britten Songs from the Chinese date from 1958, two years before the Walton, and they are settings of some of Arthur Waley's exquisite translations. Peter Pears gives the words their full due, and sings with sensitive mastery, while Julian Bream plays the marvellous guitar part with unfailing affection. I'm told that Britten himself did a good deal of guitar practice when writing these songs, and it would be interesting to hear him attempt them. His recent folk-song arrangements are delightful, and at least one of them has a guitar part of formidable difficulty. The Seiber arrangements of French folk-songs are simpler in style, but lovely to hear, and the Fricker setting of 0 Mistress mine, is delightful... [T]he enthralling music and superb performances and splendid quality makes this out-of-the-way record a joy.
-- R.F., Gramophone [7/1965, reviewing the original LP release] Read less