Benjamin Britten / Peter Pears

If Music Be the Food of Love: Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The 10-disc compilation If Music Be the Food of Love is packaged as a tribute to the relationship of composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears, which lasted more than 40 years, until the composer's death. Artistically as well as personally, theirs was a symbiotic relationship. Pears was the inspiration for virtually all of the leading tenor roles in Britten's mature operas and most of his solo vocal works, and the music Britten wrote for him established Pears in an international career he might not have had otherwise because of the distinctive and somewhat unconventional timbre of his voice. The music Britten wrote for Pears and Pears' performances of it are among the musical highlights of the mid 20th century. The generous compilation includes a representative and varied sampling of their collaborations (plus several purely instrumental works) from early in their careers, the latest work being The Turn of the Screw from 1954, and the latest recording from 1956. The sound quality is vintage, so this may not be the ideal introduction to Britten for listeners who demand audiophile sound. The performances, though, often made soon after the premieres by the original performers, are classic, and should interest anyone with a passion for Britten's music. These may not necessarily be the most polished or definitive performances (the account of Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent, who led the premiere, and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is pretty ragged) but they are valuable documents nonetheless. And some of the performances, such as The Turn of the Screw and Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings with Pears and horn player Dennis Brain, are superb and remain indispensible. Three complete operas are included (The Rape of Lucretia, the sole recorded performance of The Little Sweep, and The Turn of the Screw), as well as excerpts from others, several large choral works (A Boy Was Born, A Ceremony of Carols, and Saint Nicholas), one disc of orchestral music, and one of vocal music.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28
1 1:04
2 1:17
3 1:56
4 1:32
5 1:21
6 0:55
7 1:16
8 2:59
9 4:00
10 1:04
11 1:01
12 1:12
A Boy was Born, Op. 3
13 2:01
14 4:16
15 2:12
16 2:31
17 3:36
18 4:50
19 8:48

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations & Fugue on a theme of Purcell), Op. 34
1 1:55
2 0:34
3 0:59
4 0:37
5 0:51
6 0:39
7 1:12
8 1:18
9 0:53
10 0:52
11 0:43
12 0:35
13 1:00
14 1:34
15 3:01
The Little Sweep (Let's Make An Opera), Op. 45
16 1:57
17 1:59
18 4:03
19 1:42
20 1:29
21 2:24
22 4:18
23 2:45
24 3:07
25 4:17
26 2:07
27 4:05
28 2:28
29 1:51
30 2:51
31 2:20

Track Listing - Disc 10

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo
1 2:00
2 1:18
3 3:08
4 1:45
5 1:48
6 1:14
7 4:40
Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, Op. 31
8 1:13
9 4:06
10 3:19
11 4:18
12 4:13
13 2:02
14 4:10
15 1:21
Folksong Arrangements, Vol. 1 "British Isles"
16 3:04
17 2:37
18 0:40
19 3:03
20 2:57
Folksong Arrangements, Vol. 2 "France"
21 2:10
Folksong Arrangements, Vol. 3 "British Isles"
22 3:02
23 2:17
24 2:03
25 1:16
26 2:42
27 3:45
blue highlight denotes track pick