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Britten: Songs & Proverbs Of William Blake / Finley, Drake

Britten / Finley / Drake
Release Date: 06/08/2010 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67778  
Composer:  Benjamin BrittenCharles DibdinTraditional
Performer:  Julius DrakeGerald Finley
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Although not directly mentioned in the notes to this excellent recording--nor is it clear from the disc cover, the program consists of a trove of rarely-heard songs from both early and late in Britten's career, including the delightfully humorous "The Deaf Woman's Courtship" and "The Crocodile". We also hear two very different but equally affecting versions of "A Poison Tree", one as part of the Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, the other a much earlier setting from 1935 that didn't receive its first performance until 10 years after Britten's death. Another song whose first recording was delayed (until 1995, because of copyright issues) is "I wonder as I
Read more wander", and the group of three songs "Evening", "Morning", and "Night" (with texts by Ronald Duncan) weren't published until 1988.

Many of these songs were written or arranged for the recitals given by Britten and tenor Peter Pears, but this recording's big work, the Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, was conceived for Britten's friend and musical colleague, baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; likewise, the group of five songs with texts by Walter de la Mare, Tit for Tat, was created for baritone, this time John Shirley-Quirk. Of course the measure of the Blake cycle will always be the Decca recording by Britten and Fischer-Dieskau, and certainly the German baritone's masterful and thoroughly captivating use of vocal shading and color, his refined expressive nuances (the sighing little slides in the Proverbs), and his interpretive oneness with Britten remain unmatched. Having said that, Canadian Gerald Finely proves once again that he is among today's finest singers and song interpreters, and here is another display of his awesome technique, commanding expression, and vocal beauty.

Finley's baritone often is described as "golden", and that's absolutely true here, but the tone is also rich and full and warm, his assured technique enabling a perfect legato and exclamatory emphasis that's invariably convincing, his interpretive instincts never letting loose a note of false drama. He's capable of light, delicate singing that's every bit as emotionally powerful as the more forcefully dynamic moments--compare the unaccompanied "I wonder as I wander" or the mysterious "Silver" or "The Chimney-Sweeper" with any of the more intense passages in the Blake songs, for instance. And you can't help but be impressed with and completely charmed by Finley's playful and stylish performance of "The Crocodile" or with the sheer fun he brings to "The Deaf Woman's Courtship", happily aided and abetted by his piano partner Julius Drake.

Finley and Drake have collaborated many times (Barber, Ives, Ravel--see Reviews), and it certainly shows in their knowing communication through repertoire that makes quite varied demands on both performers. Hyperion's recording is absolutely first-rate, and so is this entire production--a well-conceived and ideally performed showcase for both composer and singer.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op. 74 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; England 
2.
Folksongs (8) with Harp/Guitar: no 3, Lemady by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Gerald Finley (Baritone), Julius Drake (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; England 
3.
Folksongs (8) with Harp/Guitar: no 2, She's like a swallow by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Gerald Finley (Baritone), Julius Drake (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; England 
4.
Tom Bowling and Other Song Arrangements: no 6, I Wonder as I Wander by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Gerald Finley (Baritone), Julius Drake (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: United Kingdom 
5.
Tit for Tat by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Gerald Finley (Baritone), Julius Drake (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
6.
Um Mitternacht by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959-1960; England 
7.
A Poison Tree by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; England 
8.
This Way to the Tomb: Evening by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
9.
This Way to the Tomb: Morning by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
10.
This Way to the Tomb: Night by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
11.
Folksongs (8) with Harp/Guitar: no 8, Bird scarer's song by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; England 
12.
Tom Bowling by Charles Dibdin
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; England 
Notes: Arranged: Benjamin Britten 
13.
David of the White Rock by Traditional
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Written: Wales, UK 
14.
Greensleeves by Traditional
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; England 
15.
The Deaf Woman's Courtship by Traditional
Performer:  Julius Drake (Piano), Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Written: Kentucky 

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