The Poet’s Echo
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A disc of interest to all who enjoy Benjamin Britten's music.

A magical new recital featuring the world-premičre recording of Britten’s only Russian-language cycle The Poet’s Echo in the English-language translation that Peter Pears crafted during the period of the cycle’s composition in Yerevan, Armenia (1965). Tenor Justin Vickers and pianist John Orfe essay important performances of Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo alongside Britten’s mysterious Goethe setting, “Um Mitternacht” (1960). This rich recital release introduces two additional world-premičre song cycles composed for Vickers. In the Six Chinese Songs (2019-2020) composed by Colin Matthews in memory of the tenor’s father John E. Vickers (1942–2017), we hear Matthews’s reflections on his own musical father, Britten, for whom Matthews served as the last musical assistant. In John David Earnest’s Songs of Hadrian (2014), we enter the world of second-century Roman Emperor Hadrian and his love and ultimate grief and madness over his eromenos Antinous. The disc concludes with a work Vickers uncovered in the Britten–Pears Library in its world-premičre recording: the “Epilogue” (1945) to The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, which Britten cut from the cycle. This is a recording that is a must-have for Britten devotees and finds American tenor Justin Vickers at the top of his craft, accompanied by one of America’s most accomplished pianists in John Orfe (of the acclaimed ensemble Alarm Will Sound).
Contents:
Benjamin Britten, composer
Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22
Justin Vickers (tenor); John Orfe (piano)

Colin Matthews, composer
Six Chinese Songs
Justin Vickers (tenor); John Orfe (piano)

Benjamin Britten, composer
Um Mitternacht
Justin Vickers (tenor); John Orfe (piano)

John David Earnest, compose
Songs of Hadrian
Justin Vickers (tenor); John Orfe (piano)

Benjamin Britten, composer
The Poet's Echo, Op. 76
Justin Vickers (tenor); John Orfe (piano)

Benjamin Britten, composer
Epilogue (John Donne)
Justin Vickers (tenor); John Orfe (piano)

Review:
Justin Vickers has made the songs of Benjamin Britten a primary concern of his career. Everything in this album of 5 song cycles can be considered a tribute to Britten; it includes 2 of Britten’s own song cycles, one by Colin Matthews, and another by John David Earnest. Same-sex love is the theme of the album. The album opens with Britten’s 7 Sonnets of Michelangelo one of his first compositions for his life partner, Peter Pears. Michelangelo’s love for Tommaso dei Cavalieri is articulated directly in the words of Sonnet 31: “If to be happy I must be conquered and held captive, no wonder then that I, unarmed and alone, remain the prisoner of a Cavalier-in-arms.” As one who is in a same sex marriage Vickers relates personally to this cycle and sings with passion and energy. His readings are clearly conceived, and his enunciation and shaping of the line is excellent…The Poet’s Echo, Britten’s settings of Russian texts by Pushkin, was composed during a 1965 holiday visit to the Soviet Union for his friends Galina Vishnevskaya and Mstislav Rostropovich. This is the first recording to use the English translation by Peter Pears.… (American Record Guide)
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