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Britten: Serenade, Les Illuminations, Nocturne / Ainsley

Release Date: 10/01/2002 
Label:  Classics For Pleasure   Catalog #: 75563   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  David HockingsKate HillJulie AndrewsHugh Webb,   ... 
Conductor:  Nicholas Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten Sinfonia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

In his liquid tone, response to the texts and technical accomplishment of the challenging line, Ainsley is well-nigh faultless.

As Ainsley implies in the interview on page 16, he is representative of the third generation of Britten interpreters with fewer of the inhibitions that inevitably afflicted those tenors who lived in the immediate shadow of the composer. Which is not to say that, in these absorbing performances, he is in any way flouting tradition: these are mainstream interpretations, but ones with their own validity. I find Ainsley most compelling in Nocturne, arguably the most difficult of the three to emcompass. Here he has nothing to fear in comparisons with Pears, Rolfe Johnson (Ainsley's teacher) and
Read more Langridge.

In his liquid tone, response to the texts and technical accomplishment of the challenging line, he is well-nigh faultless. More important still in this cycle, he catches the individual mood of each setting through finding the right timbre for each - floating line for the Shelley, nocturnal mystery for the Tennyson, with a wonderful subito piano on the final A flat (thoughout the disc, Ainsley is faithful to all markings), pure legato for the Coleridge, mesmeric, hushed tone for the Wordsworth, light lyricism for the Keats and so on. With Cleobury and the highly skilled soloists of the Britten Sinfonia lending ideal support, this is a reading to savour.

Apart from too many aspirates in the runs of "Hymn", the Serenade is almost on a par with Nocturne, the many facets of this still-amazing cycle fully realized both in terms of vocal refinement and textual acuity. Ainsley may not have that peculiar individuality of timbre found in Langridge's performance, but his is probably the more easily voiced. He is helped by - dare I say it? - the most thrilling account yet of the horn solo from young David Pyatt. His playing is nothing short of masterly and magical.

In Les illuminations I admired the delicacy of "Phrase" and the sensuous erotic touch essential for "Antique", was less happy with a too hectic pace for "Villes", though Ainsley has no difficulty coping with the fast tempo, and was conscious that the smile Pears gets into his tone throughout was generally absent. His French, though not wholly idiomatic, is clearly articulated.

High praise is due to Cleobury, who seems to have found even more nuances in the orchestral parts of all three works than his predecessors - or is it that producer Andrew Keener and his team have seen fit to it that we hear everything in perfect perspective? Balance with the voice is commendable too. If you want these three works together on a single CD in modern sound, you need not hesitate.

-- Gramophone [7/1996]
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Works on This Recording

Nocturne, Op. 60 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  David Hockings (Timpani), Kate Hill (Flute), Julie Andrews (Bassoon),
Hugh Webb (Harp), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Stephen Bell (French Horn),
Nicholas Daniel (English Horn), Julian Farrell (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Nicholas Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten Sinfonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; England 
Language: English 
Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  David Pyatt (French Horn), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Conductor:  Nicholas Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten Sinfonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
Les illuminations, Op. 18 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Conductor:  Nicholas Cleobury
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten Sinfonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
Language: English 

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