Birtwistle: The Mask Of Orpheus / Davis, Bbc Singers, Et Al

Release Date: 1/25/1999
Label: NMC Records
Catalog Number: NMCD050
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers
Number of Discs: 3

Physical Format:

CD
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
This set received the 1998 Gramophone magazine award for "Best Contemporary Recording."
'The Mask of Orpheus' is one of the major works of Harrison Birtwistle. The libretto explores several permutations of the Orpheus myth, often simultaneously, enacted by the characters as singer, puppet and mime. Like his earlier 'Punch and Judy,' 'Orpheus' is an exercise in dramatic ritual. In addition to the main action there is also a separate troupe of mimes who interrupt the action with another six episodes accompanied by electronic music. Although it is a work of formidable intellectual power, the opera is surprisingly visceral in actual performance. Musically it is well within Birtwistle's usual harmonic practice. As befits an opera about antiquity's finest singer, the opera is conceived entirely lyrically with often beautiful vocal writing within the stylistic parameters.
Andrew Davis leads a live performance that is beyond praise. The cast articulates their difficult music with great tonal beauty as well as nearly perfect diction. They make the frequent transitions between speech and song seamlessly. The stringless orchestra of winds, percussion and electronic instruments play wondrously and the audience is virtually silent. While not perhaps for the usual music lover, 'The Mask of Orpheus' demands and generously repays close attention.
Works on This Recording
1. The Mask of Orpheus by Harrison Birtwistle
Performer: Juliet Booth (Soprano), Marie Angel (Soprano), Omar Ebrahim (Baritone), Arwel Huw Morgan (Baritone), Philippa Dames-Longworth (Soprano), Peter Bronder (Tenor), Jon Garrison (Tenor), Anne-Marie Owens (Mezzo Soprano), Elizabeth McCormack (Mezzo Soprano), Alan Opie (Baritone), Nicholas Folwell (Baritone), Stephen Allen (Tenor), Stephen Richardson (Bass), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1973-1986 ;
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