Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were early advocates of the glorious songs of Henry Purcell, including some in almost all their recitals together. As pianist, Britten developed elaborate accompaniments for them that today seem a little overworked, but it’s fascinating to hear their period style on these two CDs, especially with the unifying and responsive playing of pianist Joseph Middleton. The vocal styles vary rather widely, from early music, in Ruby Hughes’s shining Fairest Isle and Robin Blaze’s pure Sweeter than Roses, to full-on in the magnificent bluster of Matthew Rose, who brings Britten’s version of Music for a While to a huge climax. There are fun ensembles too.
Nicholas Kenyon is managing director of the Barbican Centre and was director of the BBC Proms from 1996 to 2007. He wrote the Faber Pocket Guide to Mozart