BRITTEN: The Turn of the Screw
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
MENDELSSOHN: Quartet in E flat, Op. 44 No. 3. Four Pieces for String
Quartet, Op. 81. Octet in E flat, Op. 20.
Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw, premiered in 1954 by Sadler;s Wells Opera, is recognized as one of the composer's finest works. It totally capturing the eerie aspects of this ghost story written by Henry James. Scored for a small orchestra, it is filled with imaginative sounds appropriate for the ominous story. In the prologue we hear of the unnamed governess hired to take care of two children, Miles and Flora, at Bly House. She was hired by their uncle and guardian, who lived in London, with orders never to write to him about the children, never to look into the history of Bly House, and never to abandon the children. Peter Quint, the former manservant of Bly House, had died under mysterious circumstances, after being accused of inappropriate relationships with both Miles and the previous governess. Quint's ghost appears along with other apparitions and visions. The mystery of what actually happened in Bly House is never totally clarified, and the opera ends as Miles dies. The opera was recorded a month after the premiere with the same cast conducted by the composer, a definitive recording if ever there was one. It just missed the stereo era, but the mono sound is Decca at its best. This new recording was to commemorate Britten's centenary, and was to have been conducted by the late Sir Colin Davis who made a recording three decades ago. Richard Frames, director of Opera North, conducted these LSO Live performances recorded in the Barbican April 14 and 16, 2012. He leads a remarkable performance, with a first-class cast. The rather unresonant acoustics of the venue aren't a problem in this rather small-scale music. Balances are fine, and the all-English cast enunciates so clearly that the provided libretto seems unnecessary. This is a quality issue, one of the best in the LSO Live series..
Ívan Fischer and his fine Budapest Festival Orchestra have made some magnificent recordings including four Mahler's symphonies (Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6). Now we have this Symphony No. 5 recorded recently (no specific date is provided), and as with other releases on Channel Classics, audio is superb. But this is one of the most pedestrian interpretations I've ever heard of this symphony, which should be a thrilling emotional experience as well as a showcase for orchestral virtuosity. Right from the understated trumpet opening we are award not much is going on. This approach works better in the famous Adagietto, but if you're looking for spectacular, searing Mahler, you won't find it here. This is a major, and surpringly disappointing, release.
The Manderling Quartet already has to their credit fine recordings of all of the Shostakovich quartet, as well as standard repertory, and recently turned their attention to Mendelssohn's complete works for strings. Now we have the third disk in this series, a delightful SACD of some of the composer's most charming music, impeccably played and beautifully recorded. The Manderlng Quartet is joined by Quartetto de Cremona for the Octet. All recordings were made in the warm acoustics of Klingenmünster Abbey in Germany, the Octet in November 2011, the other works in April 2012. This is an excellent series in every way.
R.E.B. (December 2013)