James Gilchrist - My Beloved is Mine - Spirited Magazine
All the super audio CD releases I've come across from Linn have been of the very highest quality in terms of performances, presentation and sound quality, and this disc is no exception. Featuring James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook in three song-cycles and one canticle by Benjamin Britten, everything about the disc emanates thoughtfulness, intelligence and good design. On This Island commences the disc; a song cycle written shortly after the important initial meeting between the precocious young composer and the poet W.H. Auden had taken place, and which sets five of Auden's poems. There is an exhilarating sense of joy in Gilchrist's rendition of the opening Let this florid music praise, and wonderful lyricism in the second stanza, setting a high standard for the rest of the disc: really beautiful singing, a charged and intense atmosphere, and sensitive accompaniment from Tilbrook. Gilchrist's vibrato is quite pronounced, yet I personally don't feel that this detracts at all - slightly on the wide side it may be, yet it is nevertheless perfectly controlled and never excessive. His enunciation is superb throughout. The ensuing Now the Leaves are falling fast is an excellent showpiece for Gilchrist's impressive technical ability (as is Oh, to vex me in the following song cycle, the Holy Sonnets of John Donne), whilst ambience is most perfectly conveyed (for example by slightly growling lower notes which reflect the chilling and sinister atmosphere in Nocturne). At times I wondered whether the balance was spot-on: in Seascape the voice rather battles to be heard over the piano (but perhaps this is intentional?), and in As it is, plenty, I find the piano a little heavy-handed (the jazzy inflections in the voice are good here though). The Holy Sonnets of John Donne (dating from 1945 and setting nine rather dark Sonnets by John Donne) are given robust performances that are full of passion and commitment, and superbly communicated - Since she whom I loved in particular is exceptionally beautiful. The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo of five years earlier are absolutely radiant (especially Si come nella penna e nell'inchiostro and Veggio co' bei vostri occhi un dolce lume). Gilchrist's Italian pronunciation certainly sounds absolutely convincing to my ear (sometimes a difficulty for English tenors), and I find myself here transported at once to Renaissance Italy. The disc concludes with the first of Britten's five canticles, the eponymous My beloved Is Mine, in a performance that I cannot fault, and that provides an excellent conclusion to the disc. Full texts and translations are provided alongside Gilchrist's own excellent and insightful notes. Very highly recommended indeed.