The rather small voice of British tenor Ian Bostridge is not everyone's cup of tea, but even his detractors will likely concede that with the songs of Benjamin Britten he is in his element, and delivers recordings and performances that rival those of the songs' original dedicatee, Peter Pears. Here is a nice mixture of well-known Britten songs and a few unusual items, notably the Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58, for voice and guitar. Britten wrote quite a few song cycles, and songs arguably brought out his best: he loved poetry of many kinds and had an uncanny way of translating it into music. Perhaps the best example here is the set of Six Hölderlin Fragments, Op. 61, sung in German. Hölderlin's poetry had an elliptical, proto-modern quality which Britten reflected uncannily well, paring down his basic language to a series of economical gestures. The Italian-language Michelangelo Sonnets, Op. 22, as are expansive as the Hölderlin pieces are terse, and Bostridge adapts smoothly. So it goes throughout, with a wonderful turn through the simply tragic Winter Words, Op. 52, on texts of Thomas Hardy, and Bostridge is ably accompanied by the similarly sensitive Antonio Pappano. Recommended for any admirer or sampler of Britten's songs.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Winter Words, Op. 52|
|Michelangelo Sonnets, Op. 22|
|Six Hölderlin Fragments, Op. 61|
|Who are these Children?, Op. 84|
|Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58|