Notes and Editorial Reviews
This reissue of the original Collins two-CD set is a welcome return to the catalog for its generous selection of Benjamin Britten's folksong arrangements in generally first-rate performances. Singers Felicity Lott and Philip Langridge, and their instrumental partners Graham Johnson, Carlos Bonell, and in two rarely-heard pieces, cellist Christopher Van Kampen, offer stylish, musically engaging interpretations of 52 of Britten's unique settings, primarily from his British Isles, Ireland, and French collections, many of which were written for his recitals with partner/tenor Peter Pears. Unlike most other composers' song arrangements, Britten's don't just offer interesting harmonic underpinning or fresh rhythmic turns, but often give new interpretive twists to a song or turn simple melodies into clever musical commentaries of their own, including free use of canonical structures and unexpected chords, along with evocative scene-painting and characterizations--the galloping Lincolnshire Poacher, the delightfully sinister Miller of Dee, the otherworldly Ash Grove, the hilarious Crocodile and Deaf Woman's Courtship, and the tender Ca' the yowes.
Lott and Langridge are solid musicians, fine singers, and compelling advocates for this consistently engaging and always imaginative music. Langridge is best (his voice often eerily Pears-like), and Lott is basically fine, although sometimes her vibrato is a bit overbearing and her tone inappropriately magnanimous for this repertoire. Accompanists are uniformly excellent, and the sound engineering treats singers and instruments respectfully and naturally. If you missed the Collins release, here's your chance.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com