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Britten: Curlew River / Pears, Shirley-Quirk

Release Date: 10/20/1989 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 421858   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  John Shirley-QuirkPeter PearsHarold BlackburnBryan Drake
Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Group
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Peter Pears's performance is one of his finest and most touching, and with the composer directing the performance, it is in a class of its own.

Here's another historic Britten recording successfully transferred to CD; hopefully the two subsequent church parables will follow in due course. But Curlew River was the first and the best, perhaps because it-captured most completely the composer's fascination with the Japanese Nobplay on which it was based. Also, it was an inspired idea to re-locate the action in East Anglia, so one has the clash and intermingling of East and West with an immediacy that reflects the keenness of Britten's response to both.

The recording, produced by John Culshaw, was made in
Read more Orford Church, where all three parables had their first performances. (Do I detect an aircraft overhead near the start?) The atmosphere of those unforgettable occasions is preserved. The procession of monks at the beginning and end comes towards us and recedes, just as if we were sitting in a pew.

Peter Pears's performance as the Madwoman is one of his finest and most touching, while John Shirley-Quirk and Bryan Drake are equally authoritative as the Ferryman and Traveller. The voice of the Madwoman's dead son is devoid of the sentimentality that might have been a peril if any treble other than Bruce Webb had sung it, and the inventive and beguiling orchestral score is marvellously played by such names as Cecil Aronowitz, Richard Adeney and James Blades. With the composer and Viola Tunnard directing the performance, it is in a class of its own.

-- Gramophone [9/1989]
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Works on This Recording

Curlew River, Op. 71 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk (Baritone), Peter Pears (Tenor), Harold Blackburn (Bass),
Bryan Drake (Baritone)
Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Group
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964; England 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

Curlew River, Op.71: "Te lúcis ante términum"
Curlew River, Op.71: "I am the ferryman"
Curlew River, Op.71: "I come from the Westland"
Curlew River, Op.71: "But first may I ask you"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Clear as a sky without a cloud"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Near the Black Mountains there I dwelt"
Curlew River, Op.71: "A thousand leagues may sunder"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Ignorant man!"
Curlew River, Op.71: "I beg your pardon, living in this famous place"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Curlew River, smoothly flowing"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Today is an important day"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Look! While you were listening to my story"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Ferryman, tell me, when did it happen"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Hoping, I wander'd on"
Curlew River, Op.71: "He whose life was full of promise"
Curlew River, Op.71: "The moon has risen"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Go your way in peace, mother"
Curlew River, Op.71: "Good souls, we have shown you here"

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