, January 2009
Bedford, who took over from Britten himself when the composer could no longer conduct his own recordings, here presents a similarly idiomatic performance with a comparable sharpness and magnetism that, thanks to the spacious recording, brings out the eerie atmosphere of the piece. The recording also allows one to appreciate the sharp originality of the instrumentation in what by any standards is the tautest of Britten’s operas. The singers too have been chosen to follow the pattern set by the original performers. Langridge here, like Pears before him, takes the double role of narrator and Peter Quint, echoing Pears’s inflexions, but putting his own stamp on the characterization. Felicity Lott is both powerful and vulnerable as the Governess, rising superbly to the big climaxes which, thanks to the recording quality, have a chilling impact, not least at the very end. Sam Pay is a fresh-voiced Miles, less knowing than David Hemmings in the Britten set, with Eileen Hulse bright and girlish as Flora. Nadine Secunde is a strong Miss Jessel, and Phyllis Cannan matches up to the strength of her predecessor, Joan Cross. An outstanding set.