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Peter Pears: The Decca Premieres - Wyss; Britten; Zorian String Quartet

Peter Pears: The Decca Premieres - Wyss; Britten; Zorian String Quartet


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On 24 June 1936, Peter Pears joined his BBC Singers colleague, contralto Anne Wood, at Decca’s studio in Upper Thames Street in the City of London to make his very first commercial recording, of Peter Warlock’s setting of the Corpus Christi carol for unaccompanied voices. The year marked a turning-point for Pears: he met Benjamin Britten that April at the International Society for Contemporary Music festival in Barcelona, joined a vocal group, the New English Singers, and set off on his first trip to North America, on tour with them in November. This recording makes its first ever appearance on Decca.

Of course, Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn and strings is inextricably linked with Pears as well as with Dennis Brain, and marks one of the most important of all Decca premieres, particularly given the label’s association with both Britten and Pears. But also of interest is a series of Britten’s British and French folk song arrangements recorded by Pears (British) and the Swiss soprano Sophie Wyss (French) in the 1940s. All of these make their first appearance on Decca CD, the Sophie Wyss recordings added as a bonus midway through the (Pears) CD.

Vaughan Williams’s cycle On Wenlock Edge focuses more on the middle register of Pears’s voice (unlike the upper reaches in Britten’s Serenade). As with the Britten cycle, the first appearances of these recordings received glowing praise in the music press.

‘a most lovely piece of singing … ‘[his] clear diction and sense of word values ensures that justice is done to both poetry and music’ (Vaughan Williams) Gramophone

‘[it] is performed by them with a perfection that must have made the composer feel that his every intention has been realised. Dennis Brain’s tone is ravishingly beautiful, and – one out of many points of superb technical skill – the way he plays the high note near the end of the Prologue and Epilogue leaves one speechless with admiration’ … ‘Dennis Brain – well, he was incomparable, that’s all’ (Britten: Serenade) Gramophone

1-8 Serenade for tenor, horn and strings
Dennis Brain, horn
Boyd Neel Orchestra
Benjamin Britten

Folksong Settings:
The Salley Gardens
Little Sir William; Oliver Cromwell
The Ash Grove
The Bonny; Earl O’Moray
Heigh ho! Heigh hi!
Sweet Polly Oliver
There’s none to soothe
Benjamin Britten, piano

Folksong Settings (bonus)
16 La belle est au jardin d’amour
17 Le roi s’en va-t’en chasse
18 Voici le printemps
19 La fileuse
20 Quand j’étais chez mon père
Sophie Wyss, soprano
Benjamin Britten, piano

On Wenlock Edge
Zorian String Quartet
Benjamin Britten,

22 Corpus Christi
Ann Wood, contralto
BBC Chorus
Leslie Woodgate

Peter Pears, tenor

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