Britten: Peter Grimes - Gardner

Britten: Peter Grimes - Gardner

Chandos  CHSA 5250 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Opera

Britten: Peter Grimes

Stuart Skelton, Peter Grimes - a fisherman
Samuel Winter, Boy (John) - his apprentice
Erin Wall, Ellen Orford - a widow, schoolmistress of the Borough
Roderick Williams, Captain Balstrode - retired merchant skipper
Susan Bickley, Auntie - landlady of 'The Boar'
Hanna Husáhr & Vibeke Kristensen, nieces
Robert Murray, Bob Boles - fisherman and Methodist
Neal Davies, Swallow - a lawyer
Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Mrs (Nabob) Sedley - a rentier widow of an East India Company's factor
James Gilchrist, Ned Keene - apothecary and quack
Barnaby Rea, Hobson - carrier
Bergen Philharmonic Choir
Edvard Grieg Kor
Royal Northern College of Music Chorus
Choir of Collegium Musicum
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

'The burly Aussie tenor is now even more identified with this ill-fated protagonist than Peter Pears, the first Grimes. And everywhere Skelton has sung the part, whether at English National Opera, the Proms, the Edinburgh festival or now on this international tour of a concert staging mounted by the Bergen Philharmonic, the conductor has been Edward Gardner. Theirs is one of the great musical partnerships, and they continue to find compelling new depths in this tragic masterpiece.’ – Richard Morrison – The Times

This studio recording was made following the acclaimed production at Grieghallen, in Bergen, in 2019 (repeated in Oslo and London and reviewed above). Luxuriant playing from the Bergen Philharmonic and a stellar cast under the assured direction of Edward Gardner make this a recording to treasure.

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3 of 5 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

PCM recording
Comments (5)

Comment by DYB - September 13, 2020 (1 of 5)

Just finished listening to this's not good. Well recorded and well sung, but boring. One of their selling points is that they did a bunch of performances live and the recording is based on those, but there is so little drama and tension. Everybody sounds bored, just as I was. This is surprising because there are so many great British character singers here and nobody makes an impression, except perhaps James Gilchrist as the Rector (fun luxury casting since Gilchrist has made various Evangelists from Bach's Passions a specialty for many years now.) Stuart Skelton does some lovely things vocally as Grimes, but so did many of his predecessors. He makes no dramatic impact at all and has difficulties with some of the high notes, either going flat or into falsetto. This does not replace Britten's original set (with Peter Pears), Colin Davis' searing recording (with Jon Vickers) and Richard Hickox's (with Philip Langridge, also on Chandos.) So disappointing.

Comment by breydon_music - September 19, 2020 (2 of 5)

As always, room for different opinions - the U K Gaurdian review of this set is headed, "Peter Grimes review – insightful recording is among the opera’s finest". I wonder if any of our in-house reviewers is listening to this and could share at least some early, informal thoughts?

Comment by Graham Williams - September 24, 2020 (3 of 5)

I agree with every word of DYB's comment on this recording and am pleased he has saved me writing a review of it.

I have listened to it a number of times and find Gardner's incisive conducting to be the only thing of value.

I can't believe the Press acclaim this recording has received, Gramophone, BBC Music,The Times, The Guardian etc. etc. Do these critics really listen in depth to these recordings or simply aim to meet deadlines?

It does not hold a candle to the Pears/Britten or Vickers/Davis recordings.

Comment by breydon_music - September 26, 2020 (4 of 5)

Thank you Graham and DYB - that's good enough for me!

Comment by Ray Latham - June 30, 2024 (5 of 5)

To be fair to the reviewer in BBC Music (Daniel Jaffé), he only gave the performance 3 out of 5 stars and found the best thing to be the orchestral playing. He was unimpressed by Erin Wall (as Ellen Orford) and Stuart Skelton (Grimes) and thought that the chorus sounded as though they had been recruited straight from music college. His recommendations for this opera were the recordings conducted by Britten himself (Decca) and Hickox (Chandos). So that was one critic who had certainly listened to the recording.