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28 Nov 2012
Michael Tippett: "The Heart's Assurance"
Peter Pears, Tenor -&- Noel Mewton-Wood, piano
Michael Tippett: String Quartet no.2 - The Amadeus String Quartet
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Argo DA 34 1970 pressing/1965 Decca matrices: ARG 2693 -1A / ARG 2694 -1A
Original issues: Argo ATC 1005 (RG 15) Recorded: 1952 / HMV ALP 1302 Recorded: 1955
This is an addition to the 1942-50 Pears & Britten HMV recordings on HISTORICAL
Sleeve-note/Song-Texts + 1965 Gramophone + 1953/1956 EMG reviews >>>
"The Gramophone" April 1965
In the present Tippett boom, when recording companies are suddenly rushing to make up for their long neglect of him, it is understandable, and perfectly right, that some of the outstanding older issues of his work should also be revived, and Argo has done well to rescue these particular recordings from limbo. The earliest of Tippett's compositions here is the Second Quartet, written in 1942 (just after A child of our lime). The cut and thrust of the cross-rhythms in the first movement (as in the Concerto for double string orchestra) and the buoyant, urgent additive rhythms of the Presto are very characteristic of this period of Tippett's output, and the final pages of the quartet (in a more orthodox style) still sound most beautiful. The Amadeus Quartet play the work cleanly but with suitably impassioned feeling, and only some tonal constriction in climaxes and a rather higher than normal background tape noise betray the age of the recording.
The two vocal works have been remastered from the original tapes, as Argo considered the previous issue to have been technically below standard. As they sound now, no one is likely to grumble, and the performances are such classics that one can only express delight that they have been brought back. Boyhood's End (1943) is a cantata on a prose passage from W. H. Hudson's autobiography, recalling his childhood in the Argentine and his loving contact with Nature: The Heart's Assurance (1951) is a song-cycle on poems by Alun Lewis and Sidney Keyes on the theme of "love under the shadow of death". Both call for considerable rhythmic independence between voice and piano, and both have extremely complex and difficult piano parts (which the late Noel Mewton-Wood played most sensitively). Peter Pears was at the top of his form when he sang these: every note beautifully placed, exemplary enunciation and imaginative word-painting, musicianly and infinitely flexible phrasing. A change of perspective on page 4 of the cantata, where Pears suddenly comes closer to the mike, is probably the result of splicing two takes in the original 1952 recording session.