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Britten: Peter Grimes / Davis, Vickers, Harper, Bailey

Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001572802  
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Jon VickersAnne PashleyHeather HarperJonathan Summers,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden OrchestraRoyal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Jon Vickers as Grimes is one of the most exciting and riveting operatic performances on disc.

The transfer to CD of the Philips recording of Peter Grimes restores to the catalogue one of the most exciting and riveting operatic performances on disc, that of Jon Vickers as Grimes. Heard again after an interval, it seems better than ever, the occasionally rasping tone suggesting the man's violent and repressed nature far more truthfully than Sir Peter Pears's more restrained and gentlemanly performance on Britten's own classic Decca recording. The scorn in Vickers's voice in the Prologue when he sings "Somebody brought the parson" sets the tone for this vivid characterization. Yet he also conveys the visionary
Read more side of the 'sadistic fisherman', with a ravishingly beautiful account of the "Great Bear and Pleiades" aria in the pub scene.

But it is not all Vickers. There is also Heather Harper's perceptive and sympathetic vocal portrayal of Ellen Orford, more matronly than Claire Watson on the Decca set and also more dramatic in the Sunday Morning scene when she discovers the apprentice's bruises. Watson's softer conception of the role is, of course, superb in the context of Britten's interpretation, which is generally more romantic than Sir Colin Davis's. From Davis we get a tenser, more neurotic approach to the music, with the Interludes superbly played by the Royal Opera House orchestra.

There is little to choose between the performances of the smaller roles. Both Davis and Britten draw sharply etched vignettes from their singers, with Jonathan Summers a splendidly bluff Balstrode on the Philips set. The chorus is in fine voice on both sets. Decca gave Britten a very full and detailed recording; the Philips set is more atmospheric, but some may find the off-stage church service in Act 2 a fraction too distant.

A choice between these two classic recordings—a new one is promised within the next year—must depend on whether one prefers Britten-Pears to Davis-Vickers. I think there is no choice—have both, for both have outstanding merits. Remember, though, the Vickers plays about with the text, sometimes omitting lines altogether. But if you want only one Peter Grimes, the fact that the Philips set is on two mid-price discs against Decca's three full-price could tempt you to opt for the former instead of the received wisdom of the incomparable original.

-- Gramophone [11/1991]
reviewing this recording previously reissued as Philips 432578
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Works on This Recording

Peter Grimes, Op. 33 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Jon Vickers (Tenor), Anne Pashley (Soprano), Heather Harper (Soprano),
Jonathan Summers (Baritone), Elisabeth Bainbridge (Mezzo Soprano), Teresa Cahill (Soprano),
John Dobson (Tenor), Forbes Robinson (Bass), Patricia Payne (Mezzo Soprano),
John Lanigan (Tenor), Thomas Allen (Baritone), Richard Van Allan (Bass)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944-1945; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1978 
Venue:  London, England 
Length: 146 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Prologue: "Peter Grimes!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Prologue: "You sailed your boat"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Prologue: "Peter Grimes, I here advise you!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Prologue: "The truth...the pity..."
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Prologue: Interlude I: On the beach
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Oh, hang at open doors"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Hi! give us a hand"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "I have to go from pub to pub"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Let her among you"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Now!...Now!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Look, the storm cone!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "And do you prefer the storm"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Peter Grimes! Nobody here?"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: Interlude V: Evening
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "What harbour shelters peace"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Assign your prettiness to me"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: Interlude II: The Storm
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Pah!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Past time to close!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "We live and let live"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Come along, Doctor!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Have you heard?"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Embroidery in childhood"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Mr.Swallow!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Now the Great Bear and Pleiades"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 1: "Old Joe has gone fishing"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Who holds himself apart"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: Interlude VI: Fog
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: Interlude III: Sunday morning by the beach
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Glitter of waves"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Let this be a holiday"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "This unrelenting work"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Fool to let it come to this!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "What is it?"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "People!...No! I will speak!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "We planned that their lives"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Swallow! Shall we go"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Now is gossip put on trial"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "From the gutter"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: Interlude IV: Passacaglia
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 2: "Go there!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Grimes! Grimes!"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "Peter, we've come to take you home"
Peter Grimes, Op.33 / Act 3: "To those who pass the Borough"

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