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Schubert: Winterreise; Britten: Folk Songs / Pears, Britten

Britten / Schubert / Pears
Release Date: 07/08/2008 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001147809  
Composer:  Franz SchubertBenjamin Britten
Performer:  Benjamin BrittenPeter Pears
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUBERT Winterreise. Britten Folksongs: Foggy, Foggy Dew. O waly, waly. Sweet Polly Oliver. Sally in our alley. Tom Bowling. The Lincolnshire Poacher. The Ploughboy. Oliver Cromwell. PURCELL (arr. Britten) Man Is for the Woman Made & Peter Pears (ten); Benjamin Britten (pn) DECCA 743257 (DVD: Read more 119:00 Text and Translation)

& Pears and Britten discuss Winterreise

The BBC has of late been collaborating with Decca/London to issue several films on DVD of Britten and Pears in performance to complement the justly famous series of studio audio recordings these artists made. Other DVD releases include productions of Peter Grimes, Billy Budd , and Mozart’s Idomeneo . This release is arguably more personal, and allows the listener to get closer to the performers and their art than any of the other DVDs. Lieder encourages intimacy, and no composer’s more so than Schubert’s, a fact that Britten and Pears are all too aware of. As Philip Reed documents in his excellent accompanying essay, both artists felt a special affinity towards Schubert, and Britten was particularly conscious of a debt as a composer, not just as a performer, to the extent that the song cycles might almost have been his own music. Characterized by directness of approach rather than deference to a specific performing tradition, their music-making speaks from the heart.

This filmed-for-television performance from 1970 owes its genesis to John Culshaw, the Decca producer who also oversaw Britten’s and Pears’s 1963 audio recording of Winterreise . The film concentrates on the sung narrative, placing each song in an appropriate setting, with Pears singing in costume. Britten—somewhat controversially—is never shown as the accompanist, but it’s his playing that matters most, and his innate sense of touch and timing is self-evident. Many an accompanist today could do well by hearing Britten’s performance. Pears, however, sounds more careful in his use of the text than on the earlier audio recording, conveying the dark desperation with unnerving accuracy as the cycle progresses. Each song is prefaced by an English-language voice-over spoken by Pears. A bonus film from 1968 of the performers discussing three songs from the cycle is of some use in illuminating their insights to the work as a whole.

The performance finds an effective contrast in the material that completes the DVD. The folk-song arrangements convey atmosphere in every bar: hear Britten’s accompaniment to “Foggy, Foggy Dew” as proof of this. Pears’s highlight, though, is found in “Tom Bowling,” a song brought alive by his attention to breath control. If all this were not sufficient reason, Britten’s arrangement of Purcell’s Man Is for the Woman Made would be reason enough to invest in this DVD, given the energy of the performance it receives.

FANFARE: Evan Dickerson
Format: NTSC DVD 9
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Region: 1-6 (All)
Sound: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.1 Surround
Black & White / Colour
Please note: There are no subtitles on this disc. Read less

Works on This Recording

Winterreise, D 911/Op. 89 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Benjamin Britten (Piano), Peter Pears (Tenor)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1970 
Folksong Arrangement(s) by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Benjamin Britten (Piano), Peter Pears (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 1964 

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