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Britten: Serenade, Les Illuminations, Nocturne / Pears, Brain, Britten

Release Date: 05/23/2006 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4768470   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Peter PearsDennis BrainDenis BlythBarry Tuckwell,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Eugene GoossensBenjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

It's a little confusing keeping track of the various CD incarnations of the Britten/Pears recordings of the Serenade, Les Illuminations, and Nocturne. Suffice it to say that if you already own and are happy with the Decca compilation issued and reissued in the late-1980s/early-'90s, which featured hornist Barry Tuckwell and Britten as conductor, you may not need this disc. However, the tantalizing selling point here is the first-time-on-CD 1953 performances of the Serenade (with Dennis Brain) and Les Illuminations--recorded 10 years after the Serenade's premiere and nine years after the original Decca recording with Pears, Brain, Britten, and the Boyd Neel Orchestra. Aside from greater sonic clarity and more pleasing tonal warmth in both Read more voice and horn in this 1953 version versus the 1944 Serenade (both are in mono), and some minor differences in tempo, there's not much to distinguish the later Pears and Brain interpretation from the original--except perhaps a bit more lightness and playfulness in Pears' earlier singing of the "Hymn" and Brain's more confident articulation and more expressive indulgence in the 1953 Prologue and Epilogue.

Pears' Les Illuminations, also conducted by Eugene Goossens with the New Symphony Orchestra, is nearly identical to his rendition 10 years later with Britten and the English Chamber Orchestra, although the latter features much fuller, more natural sound. The Nocturne, a stereo recording from 1959, is the same one issued on the previously-mentioned compilations; along with the other two performances here, it's a classic and it's in fine sound. I have to say that in spite of interpretive similarities, this is worth it if only to have Dennis Brain's Serenade performance, with its enhanced presence and warmer balances relative to the 1944 original. The Illuminations also makes an interesting comparison with Pears' later effort. Clearly, if you're a fan of this music--and who isn't?--you know what to do.

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

Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Peter Pears (Tenor), Dennis Brain (French Horn)
Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; England 
Les illuminations, Op. 18 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Peter Pears (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
Nocturne, Op. 60 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Denis Blyth (Timpani), Barry Tuckwell (French Horn), Willie Anthony Waters (Bassoon),
Osian Ellis (Harp), Peter Pears (Tenor), Alexander Murray (Flute),
Roger Lord (English Horn), Gervase de Peyer (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; England 

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