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RECORDINGS: ALLA BREVE

August 31, 1986|ALLAN ULRICH

BRITTEN: "PETER GRIMES." Peter Pears, Claire Watson, James Pease, Geraint Evans, singers; Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Benjamin Britten. London 414577-2 (three compact discs). London's digital remastering of this indispensable recording so vastly improves on the murky acoustic and eccentric balances of the 1958 original that the performance now sounds like a major canvas scraped clean of years of effluvia. There's a bit of hiss in the analog source and a touch of thinness in the orchestra, but the enduring potency of the performance, featuring both composer and original protagonist, still elicits superlatives. Britten conducts with an almost Mozartean lightness; Pears stresses the reflective, visionary aspects of the beleaguered, inarticulate fisherman, leaving the more muscular aspects of the character to more heroically endowed tenors. Watson provides ample sympathy and a soaring lyric line for Ellen Orford, while an ensemble of Covent Garden's finest ensemble singers populate the landscape with remarkable vigor.

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