Purcell: The Fairy Queen; Incidental Music
Benjamin Britten; Anthony Lewis
Label
Decca
Catalogue No.
4825063
Barcode
00028948250639
Format
2-CD
About

PhilomusicaSeveral Eloquence releases have celebrated the pellucid timbre and vivid characterisation of the British soprano’ Jennifer Vyvyan. ‘A treasury to treasure’ was the BBC Music Magazine’s verdict on ‘Songs of England’
(482 5045), a L’Oiseau Lyre recital from 1953. Four years later, she took part in the first complete recording of Purcell’s masque, ‘The Fairy Queen’ (reissued as 482 7449) where again her shapely phrasing and sharply etched tone-painting drew critical praise. As a founding member of the English Opera Group, Vyvyan had by then become a favourite soprano for Benjamin Britten, who created a string of roles for her: ‘Queen of Aldeburgh’, she was called by her colleague, the baritone Thomas Hemsley.

So it was inevitable that Vyvyan should take so prominent a part in the second, (almost) complete ‘Fairy Queen’, arranged and conducted as it was by Britten for Decca in the Snape Maltings of Aldeburgh in September 1970. She was joined by a Who’s Who of British (and Britten-ish) early-music singers who between them weave a spell of magic and intimacy in this Shakesperean tale such as has hardly been rivalled on record since, especially in the ravishing nocturnal sequence to close Part II, featuring Vyvyan alongside James Bowman, Norma Burrowes and John Shirley-Quirk.

Britten’s sprightly direction encompasses grand and brilliant choruses, bucolic delight in the music for the rude mechanicals and sensuous rapture in moods of both lament and rejoicing. Hardly absent from the catalogue since its first release, this classic Decca recording is now coupled for the first time with a newly remastered (mono) L’Oiseau Lyre album from 1958, in which Vyvyan and the tenor William Herbert sing numbers from the incidental music to ‘The Tempest’, once attributed to Purcell, now largely acknowledged as the work of George Weldon. Jennifer Vyvyan is at her most beguiling here and in the minuet aria ‘What shall I do’ from Purcell’s ‘Dioclesian’, sung with assuaging tenderness and her trademark grace and subtlety of phrasing.

TRACK LISTING / ARTISTS

HENRY PURCELL
CD 1
The Fairy Queen (Ed. Benjamin Britten, Imogen Holst & Peter Pears)

Part I: Oberon’s Birthday
Part II: Night and Silence
Part III: The Sweet Passion

CD 2
Part IV: Epithalamium

Jennifer Vyvyan, Mary Wells & Norma Burrowes, sopranos
Alfreda Hodgson, mezzo-soprano
James Bowman & Charles Brett, countertenors
Peter Pears & Ian Partridge, tenors
John Shirley-Quirk & Owen Brannigan, basses
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
English Chamber Orchestra
Benjamin Britten

SONGS & INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC
The Tempest (excerpts)*
Sonata for Trumpet and Strings (ed. Dart, Tilmouth)*
The Virtuous Wife*
What shall I do? (Dioclesian)*
Ciacona in G minor (ed. Dart)*

Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano
William Herbert, tenor
Hervey Alan, bass
Dennis Egan,
trumpet
Philomusica of London
Anthony Lewis

*FIRST CD RELEASE ON DECCA

Track previews
Ciaccona in G Minor, Z.730 - Ed. Thurston Dart
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "See, Even Night Herself Is Here"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: Overture
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: "If Love's a Sweet Passion.I Press Her Hand"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: "O Let Me Weep, For Ever Weep"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Hail! Great Parent Of Us All"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: Prelude."Come, All Ye Songsters Of the Sky"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "The Songsters.May the God Of Wit Inspire"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "Echo.Now Join Your Warbling Voices All"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "Fill Up the Bowl"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "I Am Come To Lock All Fast"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "Hush, No. More"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "When a Cruel Long Winter"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Hail! Great Parent Of Us All" (Reprise)
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Thus the Ever Grateful Spring"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Here's the Summer, Sprightly Gay"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "See, My Many-Coloured Fields"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Next, Winter Comes Slowly, Pale"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: Symphony
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Now the Night Is Chas'd Away"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: Dance For the Followers Of Night
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act II: "One Charming Night"
The Tempest, Z.631: "See, see the heavens smile"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: "Hark! Hark the Echoing Air"
Sonata for Trumpet & Strings, Z.850 - ed. Thurston Dart & Michael Tilmouth
The Virtuous Wife, Z.611: March (Hornpipe) - Minuet I - Minuet II
Dioclesian, Z.627: "What shall I do?"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: "They Shall Be As Happy"
The Tempest, Z.631: "Arise ye subterranean winds"
The Tempest, Z.631: "Aeolus, you must appear"
The Tempest, Z.631: "Your awful voice I hear"
The Tempest, Z.631: "Halcyon Days"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: "Sure the Dull God Of Marriage"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: Symphony
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: "See, I Obey"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: "Turn Then Thine Eyes"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: "My Torch Indeed.They Shall Be As Happy"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act IV: Chaconne
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: "Now the Maids and the Men Are Making Of Hay"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: A Dance Of Haymakers
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: "A Thousand, Thousand Ways"
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act III: Hornpipe and Rondeau
The Fairy Queen, Z.629 (Ed. Britten, Holst, Pears), Act I: "Let the Fifes and the Clarions.Dance"
Recording information

Recording Producers: David Harvey (The Fairy Queen); unidentified (The Tempest, Sonata, The Virtuous Wife, Dioclesian, Ciacona)
Recording Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson, Peter van Biene (The Fairy Queen); unidentified (The Tempest, Sonata, The Virtuous Wife, Dioclesian, Ciacona)
Recording Locations: Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, UK, 18–21 September 1970 (The Fairy Queen); London, UK, 1958 (The Tempest, Sonata, The Virtuous Wife, Dioclesian, Ciacona)
Remastering Engineer: Craig Thompson

Reviews

‘A most enjoyable disc, showing two aspects of Purcell at his best… presented with considerable skill by the singers and with vitality by the conductor and his men.’ High Fidelity, March 1960 (The Tempest, etc)

‘The cast and orchestra under Britten’s inspired and inspiring direction certainly give of their best. Jennifer Vyvyan and Peter Pears took part in the L’Oiseau Lyre recording of the 1950s under Anthony Lewis, and now as then are perfect Purcell stylists.’ Opera, April 1972 (The Fairy Queen)

‘Britten has a clear concept of this music and manages to convey it to all concerned, with a resultant remarkable stylistic unity… this beguiling music comes through gloriously-there is not one dull moment in it.’ High Fidelity, July 1973 (The Fairy Queen)