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Britten Les Illuminations - The Guardian


07 February 2005
The Guardian

There is no shortage of first-rate versions of all three of these works already on disc, but these performances have a robustness and sense of adventure that sets them apart. The tenor Toby Spence is much more forthright in Les Illuminations and the Serenade than one might have expected; his voice appears to have gained significantly in power and authority in recent years, and he imposes a real character of his own on both works. That is no easy thing in the Serenade, in which memories of Peters Pears' performances are especially hard for a British tenor to erase, while in the Rimbaud settings of Les Illuminations he finds an approach that is a nice mixture of burgeoning sensuality and almost classical restraint. The muscularity and presence of the Scottish Ensemble strings are a real help too, with the voice and the orchestra fixed into a more democratic balance than is usual in studio recordings.


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