James Gilchrist - My Beloved is Mine - Fanfare
01 December 2012Fanfare
Lynn René Bayley
This disc, titled My Beloved is Mine, features tenor Gilchrist in three song cycles and one extended piece originally written for Peter Pears. As it turns out, On This Island begins with one of Britten's finest and most popular songs Let the florid music praise, and Gilchrist is very fine in it. I was delighted to hear that he has a pretty good trill, which Pears somehow lost as time went on (he had it in his 1946 version of the song, issued on a Decca-London LP around 1950, but not in his later recording). Gilchrist is also very sensitive in both phrasing and attention to the text in Now the leaves are falling fast, Seascape and Nocturne, and reveals a surprisingly rich and full-sounding low C in the latter song.
Gilchrist's performances of the John Donne Sonnets are very introspective, even more so than Pears's own (I refer to the early mono recording for HMV, which was far superior to his mid-1950s Decca recording). He's especially fine in the last and most famous song of the group, Death be not proud.
Britten's Canticle I: My Beloved is Mine dates from 1947 and is (to me, anyway) the least well known of the five. It is also, at seven and a half minutes, quite short. It is largely an extended ballad based on the poetry of Francis Quarles, set initially to a barcarolle rhythm before moving into a very slow ballad style. Needless to say, Gilchrist acquits himself beautifully in this quiet, introspective music.
You cannot have a really successful disc of Britten songs without a strong pianist who is a full partner in the performance, and happily Anna Tilbrook fills this role splendidly. Her playing is, by turns, vigorous and sensitive. She really knows how to create drama at the keyboard, and Britten's piano parts are nothing if not dramatic. I have nothing but the highest praise for her playing here, and I commend her accompaniments to any aspiring young pianist. This is how it's done.
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