An entrancing experience, full of exuberant ingenuity: the multi-layered storm passacaglia has a superbly cumulative theatrical impact, and the congregation's hymn finds something characterful and rewarding for every child and adult in the ensemble to do.
Listening to this recording of Noye's Fludde after an interval of years has been an entrancing experience. I had not forgotten the sheer exuberant ingenuity of the piece: that multi-layered storm passacaglia, for example, which has a superbly cumulative theatrical impact, a conjuring-trick cleverness about the way its disparate elements fit together just so, a powerful emotional charge as the congregation's hymn crowns the structure (and is then equipped with aRead more descant!) and it contrives to find something characterful and rewarding for every child and adult in the ensemble to do. Nor had I forgotten (though it is thrillingly reinforced on CD) the sense of space and of taking part in a real performance that the recording gives (as the animals cross the stage into the ark you crick your neck trying to see whether next door's Jennifer has got her tail on straight). It was good to be reminded, though, of what an openheartedly sincere as well as generously openthroated artist Owen Brannigan was, of how hugely the East Suffolk Boys' Brigade, or whoever they were, enjoyed belting out their bugle-calls (and how satisfying to have lots of bugles echoing round the church), of the magnificent spacefillingness of the final hymn, and of what cunning use, throughout the work, Britten made of what he had learned of multiple ostinato technique from the gamelan music of Bali.
The Golden Vanity, a virtuoso party-piece written for the Vienna Boys' Choir, is lesser Britten, but what a number of crucial threads from his other works meet in it. Its plot is a sort of prepubertal Billy Budd (which it acknowledges by quoting from that opera), or an appendix to Peter Grimes (if the surname-less John had not been sold as Grimes's apprentice, what might have become of him?) and it provides the pretext for one of Britten's most concise explorations of his theme of destroyed innocence, as well as a great deal of (vocally very tricky) letting off steam for the singers, and a degree of innocent enjoyment for whoever was in charge of the solitary but hilarious sound effect (a bucket of water). A richly enjoyable coupling. The Golden Vanity, a very bright-textured piece, has acquired an extra touch of dazzle on CD, but Noye's Fludde has gained nothing but still greater immediacy.
Noye's Fludde, Op. 59by Benjamin Britten Performer:
Kathleen Petch (Soprano),
Owen Brannigan (Bass),
Sheila Rex (Mezzo Soprano),
David Pinto (Boy Soprano),
Darien Angadi (Treble),
Stephen Alexander (Treble),
Trevor Anthony (Spoken Vocals),
Caroline Clack (Soprano),
Marie-Thérèse Pinto (Soprano),
Eileen O'Donovan (Soprano),
Patricia Garrod (Soprano),
Gillian Saunders (Soprano),
Margaret Hawes (Soprano)
Norman Del Mar
English Chamber Orchestra,
East Suffolk Children's Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1957; England Date of Recording: 1961 Venue: Live Orford Parish Church, Aldeburgh Festival Language: English
Golden Vanity, Op. 78by Benjamin Britten Performer:
Terry Lovell (Treble),
John Wojciechowski (Treble),
Mark Emney (Treble),
Benjamin Britten (Piano),
Barnaby Jago (Treble),
Adrian Thompson (Treble)
Wandsworth School Boys' Choir
Period: 20th Century Written: 1966; England Language: English
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