For the complete folk-song arrangements, this is the only game in town, so it’s enough to note the much-reduced price of the reissue from Collins, the clear notes and texts, fine sound, good singing, and masterful accompanying. The piano figurations are like Schubert in scope: memorable, apparently simple, endlessly varied, and reason enough to buy and study the pair of discs. I was young and foolish when I first heard Pears and Britten do a couple of these: Early one Morning and Down by the Salley Gardens. Young as I was, they left me full of tears, an early sign for me that though man had just landed on the moon, the real magic was all made closer to home. No one would listen to these 51 settings straight through, and the six books makeRead more interesting minicycles, interspersed with the posthumous publications. Bonell makes a case for the guitar-accompanied Sixth Book being the most musically satisfying of the lot.
Problems? Well, do you really like folk songs sung with high artistry, by classically trained voices? It can still sound odd. It would be good to hear June Tabor, or Polly Bolton from Shropshire try some of these, still keeping the Britten accompaniments. But if you like Britten at all, you need this inexpensive two-fer on the shelf.