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Knussen: Higglety Pigglety Pop, Where The Wild Things Are

Release Date: 06/12/2001 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 469556   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Oliver Knussen
Performer:  Lisa SafferChristopher GillettMary KingDavid Wilson-Johnson,   ... 
Conductor:  Oliver Knussen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 42 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Oliver Knussen's "fantasy opera" double bill makes for an enthralling musical experience. Based on books and illustrations by Maurice Sendak, both works transport us far from our complex and often anxiety-ridden adult world to a magical inner realm where truths are told through powerful and symbolic imagery. Where the Wild Things Are (1983) brings to life Sendak's classic children's tale of the incorrigible Max's temper-tantrums (wonderfully portrayed by Lisa Saffer), his fantastical bedtime adventures with the Wild Things, and his sleepy return home. The piece translates easily to the stage, and a live performance is a treasure for children and adults alike. However, Knussen did not
Read more compose "children's music", but instead drew from music that excited him as a child. Indeed, the score--based heavily on the coronation scene from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov--is bracing in its modernity and stunning in its explosiveness. Children can certainly relate to the music's wild flourishes and swirling colors, which lend the score an animated, almost cartoonish quality. But there's nothing silly about Knussen's remarkable invention and brilliant technique; this a real tour de force, both orchestrally and vocally.

Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1985, rev. 1999) is both a longer (more than one hour) and more traditionally operatic work, with arias, duets, and ensemble pieces. Jennie is a well-kept, and more importantly, well-fed dog who bemoans her boredom at "having everything". She escapes to join the World Mother Goose Theater, but is told by Pig-in-Sandwich-Boards (an imposing David Wilson-Johnson) that she must first have something called "experience". It is this quest that launches Jennie's (mis)adventures. The drama concludes with the World Mother Goose Theater's performance of an opera entitled--what else?--Higglety Pigglety Pop! While the modernistic vocal writing in both operas presents considerable challenges, Higglety employs a sort of "lyrical atonality", making it the more accessible of the two. Jennie's opening line, "Why am I longing to be away somewhere when everything's here", sounds like pure 12-tone, but it's quite singable, something that's reinforced when the orchestra takes up the melody in a following scene. Cynthia Buchan delivers an exceptional performance as the poor little rich pooch. The other singers are just as accomplished, but Stephen Richardson's lion is uniquely scary.

Knussen leads his scores with a composer's knowledge and conviction and a master conductor's skill and imagination. The London Sinfonietta plays magnificently, with edge-of-the seat brilliance throughout. DG's sound is both naturally and impressively hi-fi with its wide dynamic range, crystal-clarity, and balance. Whether satisfying your new-music curiosity or nurturing your own inner-child, you simply must hear this remarkable release.

--Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Where The Wild Things Are, Op. 20 by Oliver Knussen
Performer:  Lisa Saffer (Soprano), Christopher Gillett (Tenor), Mary King (Mezzo Soprano),
David Wilson-Johnson (Bass Baritone), Quentin Hayes (Baritone), Stephen Richardson (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Oliver Knussen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1999 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 39 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Language: English 
Higgelty Pigglety Pop!, Op. 21 by Oliver Knussen
Performer:  Stephen Richardson (Bass Baritone), Lisa Saffer (Soprano), David Wilson-Johnson (Bass Baritone),
Rosemary Hardy (Soprano), Christopher Gillett (Tenor), Cynthia Buchan (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Oliver Knussen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984-1985; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1999 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 61 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Ver: 1999 

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