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Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, September 2012

One could hardly wish for a better showcase than these three items by Britten. There is seriousness in the Blake, a wonderful assortment of humor in the Folk-Songs, and a bit of both in Tit for Tat. And Williams has such a wondrous voice to show off. His is no affected, artificial kind of Englishness. He sounds as if he is telling a story for all, no condescension. A warmly expressive timbre fills the ear with beauty; immaculate enunciation clearly tells the story. Best of all is the gentle, radiant personality that Williams displays. He is someone I would like to meet as well as hear singing.

Burnside’s piano accompaniments are just as pleasing. Britten would have been pleased. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

William Hedley
MusicWeb International, July 2012

This disc couples a masterpiece from Britten’s maturity and songs written in his youth. The latter were revived and gathered together as a set in his later years…beautifully sung here. There is a very brisk Plough Boy, and Roderick Williams tones in his voice beautifully for the gentler numbers. Ca’ the yowes, a minor masterpiece, is magnificently grand. Overall, the delivery is simple, neither folk-song nor art-song, and refreshingly avoiding the coy or arch in the likes of The foggy, foggy dew. No, Williams presents them unadorned, and with a beautiful legato line, as a series of lovely tunes with inventive and striking accompaniments.

Tit for Tat, a set of five short songs to poems by Walter de la Mare…presented so cleanly and with such understanding as do Williams and his superb pianist, Iain Burnside, they make just the effect the mature composer surely intended. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Hilary Finch
BBC Music Magazine, July 2012

Roderick Williams brings a gentler, more intimate touch to what Fischer-Dieskau called their ‘enigmatic smile’: Blake’s ‘Tyger’ burns bright but with less fierce teeth, and there is more melancholy than menace in this performance’s view of the human condition. Every beautifully placed word is matched by Iain Burnside’s recreation of Britten’s pianistic subtext, glinting with many a revealing musical gloss. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Guy Weatherall
Classical Music, June 2012

As valuable as the late Fischer-Dieskau’s recording with the composer at the piano is, Williams presents just as cogent, focused and even more beautiful a reading of Britten’s Blake masterpiece; and Burnside’s pianism and musical instincts are second to none, revealing harmonies and connections not hinted at in previous recordings. The early Tit-for-Tat is a delight, as are the folk-song arrangements. Wonderful. © 2012 Classical Music Magazine

Mike Ashman
Gramophone, June 2012

‘This music has the power to connect the avant-garde with the lost paradise of tonality,’ said Robin Holloway once about Britten. He might have been talking about this Blake set, a standout in Britten’s still often underrated output of the 1960s, written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau after his contribution to the War Requiem.

Putting this new Roderick Williams recording immediately up against the composer and Fischer-Dieskau is like going from hymns ancient to hymns modern. Williams finds an ideal emotional stance—involved, totally word-conscious but never melodramatic…as a recorded recital, Williams—and Burnside, who is similarly colourful but keeps an interpretative distance from pumping up the text—have created an outstanding achievement, one to set alongside the Gerald Finley/Julius Drake disc. Their remaining items, including Tit for Tat—Britten’s ‘reissue’ of early 1929-31 Walter de la Mare settings—shine in a similar way. The Potton Hall recording is clean and clear with excellent instrument/voice balance. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2012

The sixth, in an on-going series of the songs of Benjamin Britten, contrasts the words of William Blake with a selection of lightweight folk-song settings. As with many of his works, the Songs and Proverbs were composed with a specific artist in mind, the score dedicated to the German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The result was one of Britten’s most sombre song cycles as they question the folly of man, and was well suited to the dark tone of Fischer-Dieskau’s voice, the songs interspersed with proverbs to number fourteen in total. Unusual for Britten in song-cycles, they are continuous, the proverbs used as linking sections. Roderick Williams is the outstanding soloist, his voice lighter in texture than Fischer-Dieskau, but he has that edge to add an extra dimension to the cynical aspects of the texts. Indeed he moulds the words to perfection, and with a far greater range of subtle shades than in any of the other available version. Just turn to track four—The Chimney-Sweeper—sung so quietly the words sending out a cold chill. Tempos are unhurried, the balance between voice and Iain Burnside’s piano being perfectly achieved. He moves into a different world for the five songs from Britten’s young years collected under Tit for Tat, and into a totally different timbre for the ten folk songs that open with the popular The Plough Boy, and works its way through The foggy, foggy dew, the sadness of The Salley Gardens and death of Little Sir William, eventually arriving at the Scottish Ca’ the yowes. A gorgeous disc I fervently recommend, the sound quality in Naxos’s super league. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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