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My Beloved Is Mine - Britten: Song Cycles / Gilchrist, Tilbrook

Britten / Gilchrist / Tilbrook
Release Date: 09/25/2012 
Label:  Linn Records   Catalog #: 404   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  James GilchristAnna Tilbrook
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRITTEN On This Island. The Holy Sonnets of John Donne. 7 Sonnets of Michaelangelo. Canticle I: My Beloved is Mine James Gilchrist (ten); Anna Tilbrook (pn) LINN 404 (SACD: 62:16 Text and Translation)

This disc, titled My Beloved is Mine, features tenor Gilchrist in three song cycles and one extended piece originally written for Peter Pears. As it turns out, On This Island Read more begins with one of Britten’s finest and most popular songs Let the florid music praise , and Gilchrist is very fine in it, although I personally find his tone a little thin and brittle when he opens up the volume. I was delighted to hear that he has a pretty good trill, which Pears somehow lost as time went on (he had it in his 1946 version of the song, issued on a Decca-London LP around 1950, but not in his later recording). Gilchrist is also very sensitive in both phrasing and attention to the text in Now the leaves are falling fast, Seascape and Nocturne , and reveals a surprisingly rich and full-sounding low C in the latter song.

Gilchrist’s performances of the John Donne Sonnets are very introspective, even more so than Pears’s own (I refer to the early mono recording for HMV, which was far superior to his mid-1950s Decca recording). He’s especially fine in the last and most famous song of the group, Death be not proud . In the Michaelangelo Sonnets, however, I found him somewhat disappointing, not in the songs that call for introspection ( Veggio co’ bel vostri ), but in the songs that call for sweeping up to a bright, open top, like A che più debb’io mai l’intensa voglia . Those who are not familiar with Pears’s original 1940 HMV recording are probably scratching your heads wondering if the work’s creator could actually sing these lines. Back then, he could; in fact, in 1940 Pears’s voice actually had a slightly dry but Italianate ring to it, not dissimilar from the voice of Tito Schipa who was one of his early models (he told me this when I talked to him after an early-1970s concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). But then, as I mentioned earlier, Gilchrist’s one weakness is his loud, open high range, which tends to be dry and brittle.

Britten’s Canticle I: My Beloved is Mine dates from 1947 and is (to me, anyway) the least well known of the five. It is also, at seven and a half minutes, quite short. It is largely an extended ballad based on the poetry of Francis Quarles, set initially to a barcarolle rhythm before moving into a very slow ballad style. Needless to say, Gilchrist acquits himself beautifully in this quiet, introspective music.

You cannot have a really successful disc of Britten songs without a strong pianist who is a full partner in the performance, and happily Anna Tilbrook fills this role splendidly. Her playing is, by turns, vigorous and sensitive. She really knows how to create drama at the keyboard, and Britten’s piano parts are nothing if not dramatic. I have nothing but the highest praise for her playing here, and I commend her accompaniments to any aspiring young pianist. This is how it’s done.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

On this Island, Op. 11: no 4, Nocturne by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  James Gilchrist (), Anna Tilbrook (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK 
Length: 12 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Op. 35 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Anna Tilbrook (Piano), James Gilchrist ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK 
Length: 23 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Sonnets (7) of Michelangelo, Op. 22 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Anna Tilbrook (Piano), James Gilchrist ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK 
Length: 15 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Canticle I, Op. 40 "My beloved is mine" by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Anna Tilbrook (Piano), James Gilchrist ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; England 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK 
Length: 7 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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