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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: 7 minutes 48 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 V 'The Death of Saint Narcissus', Op 89
First line:
Come under the shadow of this gray rock
author of text
Poems written in Early Youth, Faber & Faber, 1967

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Canticle V, The Death of Saint Narcissus, Op 89, was written in 1974 while Britten was recuperating from a heart operation. His wide reading at this time included poetry by T S Eliot, whom he admired ‘for the clarity and security of his language’, and he decided to set this early poem in memory of his friend William Plomer, author of the words of Gloriana and the three Church Parables, who had died the previous year. As Britten was still not well enough to play the piano himself, the accompaniment was assigned to the harp, to be played by his friend and colleague Osian Ellis, the vocal line being given to the tenor voice. Britten himself was to die the following year, and this setting is an instance of his apparent preoccupation with death in his final years, of which the most notable example was his last opera, Death in Venice.

from notes by Michael Short © 1992

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