In this centenary year full of celebrations of Britten's contribution to British life and music, as composer, performer, impresario and public representative of serious music that could yet reach and touch a vast number of people beyond the usual circle of new-music mavens, it can be forgotten how well his music has always travelled, not just to other Anglophone countries but in Europe; far more so than the self-consciously English Edwardians and pastoralists. To the Germans and the Italians, Britten was quickly recognised as a vital continuing link in the now almost-defunct lyric tradition that could produce new operas on contemporary themes that would catch the public imagination and exploit the full resources of an opera house; a quality Britten shares with a vanishingly small number of composers, all of whom (Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini and Richard Strauss) belonged to one or other of their musical cultures. And so these East German recordings of two early song cycles belong to their own tradition. Schreier may best be known for his unique authority as a Bach performer, but he brings the same laser-like clarity of thought, diction and tuning to Britten's settings of French and English poetry, and Herbert Kegel was, until his tragic suicide, a conductor of uncommonly wide sympathies and powerful convictions about the music of today; these are, then, not recordings nurtured within the native tradition of Britten performance, but they possess an authority all of their own.
- In celebration of the Britten Centenary Brilliant Classics presents two of Britten’s best known song cycles, the Illuminations and the Serenade for tenor, horn and orchestra.
- These German performances by the superb Peter Schreier and 20th century music champion Herbert Kegel prove that the understanding of Britten does not stop at the English border, but, as with all great music, the music’s universal message will find a ready ear and a susceptive heart all over the world.
- Recording of 1967, from the Berlin Classical catalogue.
- Booklet contains the sung texts and liner notes.