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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55244
Recording details: April 1991
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: March 1992
Total duration: 11 minutes 47 seconds

'Rolfe Johnson is in superb voice … this disc is an outstanding example of his artistry' (Gramophone)

'A superlative Hyperion disc … most notable is the Hyperion team presided over by Anthony Rolfe Johnson, whose 1991 recording has become one of the jewels in the record label's crown … Rolfe Johnson's pairing with countertenor Michael Chance in Abraham and Isaac is deeply moving as they enact what is essentially a miniature drama, and the tenor's mellifluous singing is a joy throughout this disc' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Un superbe disque d'approfondissement de la musique de Britten' (EcouterVoir, France)

Canticle III 'Still falls the Rain', Op 55
composer
1954; in memory of Noel Mewton-Wood
author of text
The Canticle of the Rose 'The Raids, 1940. Night and Dawn'

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Canticle III, Still falls the Rain, Op 55, was written in 1954 in memory of the talented Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood, whose early death by his own hand had been a severe shock to Britten. The work is scored for tenor, horn and piano, and for his text Britten turned to the twentieth century, choosing Edith Sitwell’s poem ‘The Canticle of the Rose’, which although subtitled ‘The Raids, 1940. Night and Dawn’ is in fact an allegory of Christ’s passion.

As the original poem is quite irregular in metre, a lyrical setting would have been inappropriate, so the text is declaimed in the form of recitatives, culminating in a type of sprechgesang at the climactic moment where the poet quotes a phrase from the end of Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus. Between these recitatives, the horn and piano play interludes consisting of a theme and six variations, based on an atonal series of ten notes, whose intervals alternately expand and contract, the final variation serving as a coda. This technique is closely related to the opera The Turn of the Screw, which Britten had recently completed.

from notes by Michael Short © 1992

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