Tippett: The Midsummer Marriage / Davis, Herincx, Et Al

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It is as though Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire were not on show because no one could be bothered to clean it, or as though Wordsworth’s The Prelude had been allowed to go out of print. How can it have taken so long for this great and magical opera to appear on CD?

So many of the expressions of our age have frowned in their contemplation of it, or have turned away to cultivate arcane, private gardens. But here was Tippett in 1955 expressing joy, boundless optimism and faith in beauty and humanity; doing so, moreover, with such richness of imagery that even those who loved it at first hearing were a bit taken aback by its overwhelming abundance.

As so often with his pieces, it took a while to sink in, and for players and singers to get their fingers and their vocal chords around those springing rhythms and sinewy lines. The moment at which that happened was the moment of this recording and the performances that preceded it. Remedios and Carlyle are not simply managing those exuberant hocketings above the stave in their final duet; you would swear that they were enjoying them, and as they do so the image of love as a consuming flame is vividly projected. Burrows and the adorable Harwood are audibly moved by how much tenderness and innocence there is in their music, and they make a real and most touching couple. Herincx is wonderfully suave and bossy as King Fisher; Watts not only survives her forays into the bass-baritone register but makes an awesomely Sibylline figure of Sosostris. And Davis, raptly in love with this score and communicating that to his singers and players so effectively that one is never aware of them gritting their teeth and counting beats as though their lives depended on it, reveals again and again the opera’s magical sonorities. It is a superb performance: after it one can hardly read those early reviews (“incomprehensible libretto”, “too much counterpoint”, “half an hour too long”) without laughing. The recording, too, communicates a real sense of live performance.

A masterpiece, in short, and one that can be listened to again and again without exhausting its exuberant generosity.

Michael Oliver, GRAMOPHONE (1/1996) Review of original CD release

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 01, 2006

  • UPC: 5020926221728

  • Catalog Number: SRCD2217

  • Label: Lyrita

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Composer: Michael Tippett

  • Conductor: Sir Colin Davis

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus, Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra

  • Performer: Alberto Remedios, Andrew Daniels, David Whelan, Elisabeth Bainbridge, Elizabeth Harwood, Helen Watts, Joan Carlyle, Raimund Herincx, Stafford Dean, Stuart Burrows