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Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, January 2013

How wonderful it is to watch Britten conduct—not because he does very much, but for the opposite reason, that he is able to draw such fine, emotional performances by doing very little.

The liner notes say that Britten fell in love with the Mozart G-Minor Symphony after hearing Bruno Walter conduct it in 1934, and this makes sense. His own reading eschews the tragic drama that Toscanini found in the work, instead presenting it as dramatic in a general sense, but it’s a valid interpretation and it works. In the last movement, one has the feeling that Britten is actually shaping the music with his hands.

Peter Pears is in excellent voice for the performance of Britten’s Nocturne…the performance is a good one.

The liner notes make a great deal out of the difference in Britten’s appearance between the two concerts: “His hair is grey, his face puffy, his demeanor that of an old man.” Perhaps—but as soon as he starts conducting, he is Britten again, the same simple, elegant movements on the podium, the same arm movements, the same approving nods of the head. At those moments where he is more in shadow, or photographed from behind, it looks exactly like the Britten of 1964…And what a performance! I only wish he had conducted the complete symphony and not just two movements, because this is one of the finest performances of the “Scottish” symphony’s Adagio and Scherzo I have yet heard. Older and more ill he might have been, but when it came to music-making he was still Ben Britten and that’s good enough for me. As a matter of fact, it was this performance that made me decide to keep this DVD. In a way, it reminded me of Toscanini’s television concerts, where one would see this frail old Italian making his way from the wings to the podium, with measured and deliberate steps, but then as soon as the baton arm was raised to give the downbeat, he “became” Toscanini again, and one could easily imagine his hair slightly dark around the edges rather than the snow-white it really was. Music-making invigorated both of them, even in physical decline. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

William R. Braun
Opera News, January 2013

…this video compilation, which features Britten conducting his own Nocturne with Peter Pears as tenor soloist in a live televised performance from Croyden in 1964, is of great interest…this live performance is not just an important complement to the studio version made by Britten and Pears five years earlier; it is perhaps even preferable to it.

In Croyden, the timpani-tinged march of Wordsworth’s “The Prelude” is especially effective for the way it starts unexpectedly, for the brisker tempo and for the perhaps intentional swamping of the voice. The setting of Wilfred Owen’s “The Kind Ghosts,” with English horn, also gets a distinctive interpretation. In some performances, the voice and the instrument seem to exchange bodies at the end, with the tenor unusually low and the woodwind unusually high, but Britten here keeps the two soloists utterly indifferent and unaffected by each other. The Shakespeare sonnet gives the Nocturne a more Mahlerian climax in Croyden, one fuller and longer-sustained than in the studio, and the ending is eerier.

Pears…shows a superb legato. Britten’s innate musicality as a conductor is…on view in his performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. He is perfectly aware of performance practice in the case of notes marked neither legato nor staccato and in the matter of string-to-woodwind balance. The slow movement gets a loving, graceful performance… © 2013 Opera News Read complete review

Charles H. Parsons
American Record Guide, January 2013

The Mozart and Britten are outstanding. Britten conducting Britten is often definitive. Tenor Peter Pears…is in superb voice. The Mozart symphony is performed with more than a touch of romanticism. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online, September 2012

The Britten DVD comes with revelations…It is scarcely a surprise that Britten and his longtime companion, Peter Pears, do a wonderful job together with the Nocturne Op. 60 for tenor, seven obbligato instruments and strings, in a December 1964 performance filled with style and sensitivity. But it is somewhat unexpected to hear just how well Britten puts across one of his favorite symphonies, Mozart’s No. 40, in the same concert: the reading has sweep, intensity and a strong sense of involvement throughout…Britten often conducted the English Chamber Orchestra, and the ensemble’s responsiveness to him is a big part of the enjoyment here…It is the Nocturne performance, which can reasonably be deemed definitive, that most Britten fans will cherish here. © 2012 Read complete review

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