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Susan Gritton Sings Britten, Finzi, Delius

Gritton,Susan
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10590   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin BrittenFrederick DeliusGerald Finzi
Performer:  Susan Gritton
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FINZI Dies natalis. BRITTEN Les Illuminations. 4 Chansons françaises. DELIUS A Late Lark Susan Gritton (sop); Edward Gardner, cond; BBC SO CHANDOS CHAN 120590 (68:15 Text and Translation)


This is a very fine disc that does not quite qualify as essential except for one five-minute selection. Read more That is A Late Lark , a song completed by Delius near the end of his life, and reflective of his declining health. This is a real gem, and it is surprising that this is one of its very few recordings. Delius collectors may well want to add this disc if for no other reason than the fact that it contains this song.


Delius’s song was originally conceived for tenor, and much of the music on this disc is associated with tenors. Finzi’s Dies natalis was beautifully recorded by tenor Wilfred Brown under the direction of Christopher Finzi, the composer’s son (EMI 63372), but in fact it was written for a soprano. We associate Britten’s Les Illuminations with Peter Pears, thanks to a stunning recording he made with the composer conducting (Decca 436395), but it has been well served by sopranos too, and the score calls for “soprano or tenor and string orchestra.” Felicity Lott, in fact, made a lovely CD on Naxos (8557206), which includes both Les Illuminations and Quatre Chansons françaises.


While comparing recordings has its purpose, I try to think of a CD on its own terms. If you own excellent recordings of this repertoire you might feel that you don’t need the duplication, and that’s fine. But for those who lack recordings of some of these pieces, or who are always interested in new versions, the important issue is the quality of this disc. In a word: lovely. Susan Gritton is a relatively young British lyric soprano, and Edward Gardner a young British conductor with a rapidly rising reputation internationally. They combine to capture perfectly the evocative, luminous, poignant, and bittersweet qualities inherent in these pieces. In particular, there are moments of true darkness in Les Illuminations , and these performances convey them vividly. Gritton produces a steady, bright, warm sound and displays an imaginative feel for phrase-shaping and dynamic shading. The BBC Symphony Orchestra digs into the music in what is clearly more than a dutiful accompaniment, and Gardner paces these works perfectly. This almost 70 minutes of English vocal music could have a narcotic effect on the listener, except that the soloist and conductor bring enough intensity, energy, and variety of inflection to the program that in fact it completely engrosses the listener.


I do wish Gritton’s diction were a bit crisper—there is just a bit of the Joan Sutherland approach to consonant under-articulation. Chandos’s spacious recording could also have somewhat more focus on the voice, which would help. But Chandos does provide full texts and very helpful notes, and these reservations are minor. This is a disc to be treasured.


FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

1. Chansons françaises (4) by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
2. Les illuminations, Op. 18 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
3. A Late Lark by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1929 
4. Dies natalis, Op. 8 by Gerald Finzi
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925-1939; England 

Sound Samples

Dies natalis, Op. 8: I. Intrada
Dies natalis, Op. 8: II. Rhapsody
Dies natalis, Op. 8: III. The Rapture
Dies natalis, Op. 8: IV. Wonder
Dies natalis, Op. 8: V. The Salutation
Les illuminations, Op. 18: I. Fanfare
Les illuminations, Op. 18: II. Villes
Les illuminations, Op. 18: IIIa. Phrase -
Les illuminations, Op. 18: IIIb. Antique
Les illuminations, Op. 18: IV. Royaute
Les illuminations, Op. 18: V. Marine
Les illuminations, Op. 18: VI. Interlude
Les illuminations, Op. 18: VII. Being Beauteous
Les illuminations, Op. 18: VIII. Parade
Les illuminations, Op. 18: IX. Depart
4 Chansons francaises: No. 1. Nuits de juin
4 Chansons francaises: No. 2. Sagesse
4 Chansons francaises: No. 3. L'Enfance
4 Chansons francaises: No. 4. Chanson d'automne
A Late Lark

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