Tippett (A) Child Of Our Time

A return to familiar territory proves to be a poignant and emotional journey

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Tippett (A) Child Of Our Time

Four years after his Dresden version of A Child of Our Time, recorded live in the Semperoper (Profil, 3/08), Sir Colin Davis returned to the work in the very different environment of London’s Barbican Hall. On this occasion the Classic Sound engineers and editors have managed a good blend of the intimate and the intense. Now and again a soloist may seem unduly reticent – perhaps a vocal problem on the day rather than a matter of recorded balance. But I can’t believe that any other recording surpasses this one in the expressive power with which choral singing and orchestral playing combine to reinforce the timeless message of this most history-conscious work, rooted as it is in events just prior to the years of its composition (1939-41).

The formidable discipline and sensitivity of the London Symphony Chorus, trained by Joseph Cullen, are immediately clear in the well defined dynamic contrasts of Part 1’s first movement. While an imposing weight of sonority, as in the Spiritual “Go Down Moses”, can be guaranteed, there is a rare lightness of articulation in the passage beginning “We are as seed before the wind”, which returns in “Nobody knows the trouble I see”.

Of the soloists, soprano Indra Thomas struggles with foggy vibrato while still managing to float some beautifully unstrained high notes in the final ensemble. Mihoko Fujimura, Steve Davislim and Matthew Rose are all excellent, and it’s especially good to have a tenor who sounds young enough to embody the character of Herschel Grynszpan convincingly. Of course, some collectors will not be persuaded that Sir Colin could ever match let alone outdo his first, 1975 recording of the work. Nevertheless, the enduring significance of the piece for him is palpable right through to the superbly shaped account of the final Spiritual, “Deep River”. There are emotional depths here which turn this recording into something very special.

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