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Review

Author(s): Wilfrid Mellers


Review by: Wilfrid Mellers
Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 109, No. 1510 (Dec., 1968), p. 1125
Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/954249
Accessed: 22-02-2016 08:58 UTC

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Record Reviews
BACH Chorales & Chorale Preludes,Vol 3. David that he misses any opportunitiesfor human nasti-
Willcocks/Choirof King's College, Cambridge ness; I particularlylike the degree of personal
withAndrew Davies (organ) tauntinghe throws into his formal accusation of
HMV0 HQS 1166 (28s 5d) Billy.
Vol 1 was Webster at UniversityCollege Chapel, The small roles are all well done. The (spoken)
Oxford,and Vol 2 was Preston at St Mary of Eton, inflexionsof JamesNewby's Cabin Boy are exactly
Hackney (see June MT, p.545). The series now right. If I preferthe Dansker of Inia te Wiata
moves into a large buildingand faces the difficulties (Covent Garden 1951 and 1968) to that of Owen
of clear reproduction. To counter this, organ Brannigan here it is because te Wiata's brusque,
microphonesseem to have been placed closer to the embittered taciturnity(especially in the shanty
pipeworkthan in the past; some of the quieterpre- scene,Act 1 scene 3) seems more in keepingwiththe
ludes have acquired theintimatesound of a chamber fullerportraitof Dansker in Melville's novel than
organ. There is less to be done withthe loud pieces, Brannigan's more selfconsciousdelivery. It is one
except to registercarefully. David Willcocks has happy detail among many to have Nigel Rogers's
done his best, throwingcaution to the winds only veryindividualvoice for Maintop, a part whichfits
occasionally. Oddly enough,it is thechoirforwhich him like a glove.
the engineers appear to have sought atmosphere The quality of the recordingis admirable. So
ratherthan clarity. much depends on the clarityand consistencyof the
A slightlydisappointing addition to the series. unusual textures,particularlyin the big scenes such
Clarityof textureis a prerequisitefordemonstrating as the opening of the opera proper,and the Act 2
not only the resourcefulnessof Bach but also the scene 1 sea fight-which has, by the way, a disap-
exquisite chorale harmonizations for voices that pointinglyquiet bang! And I wishthe conclusionof
stemfromthesame period and earlier. BASILRAMSEY the Epilogue had been faded out-at the words
'centuriesago'-as the last phrase of the Prologue
is; thereis no hint of the ghostlyVere in this pro-
duction. However,Brittenhas said some hard things
about mechanically available performances; it is
BRITTEN Billy Budd. Soloists/AmbrosianOpera surely this sort of experience that justifies the
Chorus/LSO/Britten recordingof operas. PATRICIA HOWARD
DECCA ( MET 0 SET 379-81 (135s 9d)
It is good to have a recordingof this opera: Billy
Budd is far too complex in textureto absorb during
infrequentstage performances,too massivelycon- DALLAPICCOLA Carmina Alcaei; Preghiere.
tinuous in structureto re-createreadily by score- BUSONI Berceuse Elgiaque. WOLPE Piece in
Two Parts. Harper,McDaniel/ECO, NPO/Prausnitz
reading.It is Britten'sonly symphonicopera to date
-all the others use to a large degree essentially HMV 0 ASD 2388 (42s 9d)
monothematic,often variation, forms, which are A valuable record in an admirable series. At this
comparativelyeasy to follow on a firsthearingand date Dallapiccola's serialism sounds traditional,
to retain after a performance. This recordingis partly because Schoenberg is now widely heard,
doubly valuable as being a definitiveversion con- partlybecause Dallapiccola thinksin termsof the
ducted by the composer with-it is facile to say an (Italian) human voice. These pieces, givenexcellent
ideal cast, but certainlyone it would be hard to performances,are beautifullyconceived and imag-
improveon. ined, thoughtheyhaven't,perhaps,greatpowers of
Billy Budd has a large all-male cast and requires, renewal: the relatively recent Preghiere doesn't
particularlyin a recording,easily identifiableindi- greatlyextendthe range of the dramaticlyricismof
vidual voices. This it gets. Several of the soloists the Carmina. Busoni's Berceuse Eligiaque of 1909
were in the firstperformance(December 1951) but seems the more forward-lookingpiece in its tonal
only Peter Pears sings the role he created in that ambiguity,which also has the effectof making its
production. As Vere, he gives an entirelysatisfying harmony mysteriously(and fashionably) static.
performanceof the very human captain, invested There is usually some quality that fascinates in
withGod-like power over the lives of his men, and Busoni's work,even if the music is not finallysatis-
lacking both the vision and the courage to stand fying;on thewhole,thispiece satisfiesme morethan
outside the conditioningof his centuryand class to StefanWolpe's ostensiblywith-itPiece in Two Parts'
deal withthe moral drama whichtakes place within -though it is certainlytimewe had a recordingof a
his 'floatingmonarchy'. Moral drama, because the substantial work by this considerable composer,
human characters of both Billy and Claggart are who providesa link betweenthe mysticallyexplora-
subordinatedto theirspiritualroles as angelic and tory mind of a Busoni and the new world of the
satanic protagonists. Pears's interpretationof Vere avant garde. WILFRID MELLERS
is full of detailed passion. The sizzling range of 1 score,British& Continental,45s
emotion-most of it repressed-in the trial scene
makes side 5 a remarkableexperience.
Peter Glossop sings Billy: a strongand straight-
forwardinterpretation(more a 'St Bernard's dog' ELGAR Introductionand Allegro, op 47; Sospiri,
than a 'celtic Apollo'!) though he manages to ab- op 70; Serenade, op 20; Elegy, op 58; Dances
sorb into Billy's characterization the essentially fromThe Spanish Lady. Academy of St Martin-
operatic momentat the beginningof Act 2 scene 3 in-the-Fields/Marriner
ARGO Q RG 0 ZRG 573 (42s 9d)
(Billy's Ballad in the Darbies), when an unrealistic
articulatenessis forcedon him. Michael Langdon is No composer has writtenfor stringsmore satisfy-
a most convincingClaggart-not spirituallyso evil inglythan Elgar, and it is a splendid idea to have
1125

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