Everyday Rather Live in Classic Eras

Britten’s The Turn of the Screw on Lso Live, Hybrid SACD – DSD

Only Colin Davis could have persuaded the London Symphony Orchestra to reduce its forces to 17 – Britten writes for 13 players, four doubling instruments – for two visually unatmospheric concert performances of this rigorous horror-opera. Sadly he died two days before the first; but the gain is a rare CD chance to catch the superlative work of Richard Farnes. He gives his LSO players absolute freedom when they need it, starting with pianist Susanna Stranders – spacious and nuanced, later an equally subtle celesta player. Farnes also knows when to turn the screw, as this layered adaptation of Henry James’s novella sees country-house ‘ghosts’ possess not only the children they were once charged to care for but also the hyper-imaginative young woman who comes to take the place of her dead predecessor. Sound-wise, Sally Matthews’ Governess is the weak link here – the plummy tone and diction more worrying than in her live performances. Still, she impresses in her forceful desperation through a gripping second act. The ghosts are peerless: tenor Andrew Kennedy has both allure and more threatening steel than fellow Quints Pears, Bostridge and Padmore, while Katherine Broderick may be the most powerful, dramatic-soprano Miss Jessel yet. Catherine Wyn-Rogers finds dark corners in the housekeeper, Mrs Grose, tonally clearer than Matthews, and while the child Flora loses some conviction when taken by a fully-fledged singer, (Lucy Hall). Michael Clayton-Jolly uses dramatic sophistication to make Miles the boy who wants to break free. Ultimately, though, it’s the instrumental impact, with bass clarinet and double bass especially present, which offers essential listening here, even with Britten’s own vivid interpretation still holding sway.