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Track(s) taken from CDA67355

Ekho poeta 'The poet's echo', Op 76

author of text

Joan Rodgers (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano)
Recording details: July 2003
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: September 2004
Total duration: 15 minutes 12 seconds
Ekha 'Echo'  [2'50]
Angel  [2'13]

Other recordings available for download

Susan Gritton (soprano), Iain Burnside (piano)


'Joan Rodgers's live recitals of Russian song, and her earlier Tchaikovsky album for Hyperion, set up huge expectations for this disc of four song cycles which have become classics of the repertoire. And it does not disappoint' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This is Hyperion at its best: a pair of fine artists exploring a less-than-familiar corner of the repertoire. More please!' (International Record Review)

'This wonderful collection of four of the greatest song cycles and sets to Russian texts finds Rodgers in compelling form. The voice remains fresh and pristine enough for the childlike tones of the famous Musorgsky set, and now commands the richness of tone colour to do justice to Britten's dark Pushkin settings. Vignoles is a worthy partner in this outstanding enterprise' (The Sunday Times)

'Roger Vignoles provides sensitive accompaniments, with Hyperion supplying a realistic sound environment that avoids over-reverberance. Decent liner notes are furnished by Jonathan Powell, and English texts alongside transliterated Russian ones for all songs. Highly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)
The Poet’s Echo was written during a holiday that Britten and Pears spent in the Soviet Union with Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich in August 1965. By this time Britten had already written the Sonata in C (1961), the Cello Symphony (1963) and the First Cello Suite (1964) for Rostropovich and had conceived the soprano solo in War Requiem for Vishnevskaya. Since 1963 he had been considering the possibility of setting Russian texts for a song collection or cycle for the great Bolshoi diva and on his departure from the UK for this Armenian trip he bought a copy of Pushkin’s poems (in Russian with a parallel English translation) for the journey. Britten wrote this cycle while resident at the Composers’ Union in Armenia and the central theme of the work is reflected in the title, referring, to the artist’s struggle to elicit some response from an uncomprehending world, a theme explored from the very outset in Echo. My heart touches on Britten’s personal preoccupation with the heartache so often aroused by the presence of great beauty. The confrontation between Satan and the Angel in the third song takes this tension onto another plane—closer to the conflict between good and evil common to many of the stage works. The next two songs provide strong dramatic contrast, juxtaposing the lyricism of The Nightingale and the Rose with a folk-like Epigram with more than a nod to Mussorgsky—brief, acerbic and thrown off in peasant style.

Lines written during a sleepless night, returns to the cycle’s central theme, drawing the cycle to a close on an uncomfortable, almost eerie note of uncertainty. And the strange circumstances of the first run-through of the cycle, in the Pushkin Museum, towards the end of their trip to Russia, has certainly added to the disturbing quality of the song, as Pears later recalled in his Armenian Holiday diary:

The last song of the set is the marvellous poem of insomnia, the ticking clock, persistent night-noises and the poet’s cry for a meaning in them. Ben has started this with repeated staccato notes high-low high-low on the piano. Hardly had the little old piano begun its dry tick tock tick tock, than clear and silvery outside the window, a yard from our heads, came ding, ding, ding, not loud but clear, Pushkin’s clock joining in his song. It seemed to strike far more than midnight, to go on all through the song, and afterwards we sat spellbound.

The cycle is dedicated to ‘Galya and Slava’ and was first performed by the dedicatees in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, on 2 December 1965.

from notes by John Evans 2008

Other albums featuring this work

Britten: Britten Abroad
SIGCD122Download only
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