This Collector's Edition presents a challenge to reviewers. There's so much of it. I could never do it any sort of justice if I approached this as if reviewing a smaller set. This, after all, comprises 37 CDs. As it is all I have been able to do is to sample, reminisce about known recordings and write around the subject. With this caveat stated, let's make a start.
There are three principal strands of Britten recordings. These are broadly tied into and defined by record companies, artists and eras. First we have Britten recording Britten for Decca.
When Written on Skin had its premiere at the 2012 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, conducted by George Benjamin himself, it received a standing ovation. The opera's arrival at Covent Garden in 2013 was eagerly anticipated, and provided audiences with the opportunity to experience the work of two of Britain's greatest living artists. Benjamin previously collaborated with playwright Martin Crimp on Into the Little Hill, a magical retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale, and for this new work they joined forces with acclaimed stage director Katie Mitchell. For all three, the production marked their main-stage debut at the Royal Opera House. The tale, inspired by a medieval legend, tells of an ill-fated troubadour, drawn into a liaison with an innocent maiden. But they are observed by the jealous eye of her protector, who wreaks a shocking revenge on the young couple.
"…Hickox's set has achieved the status of a classic for Britten recordings." ~sa-cd.net
Peter Hill’s latest CD for Delphian (DCD 34141) features the premiere of Messiaen’s recently discovered La Fauvette Passerinette, along with music by nine other composers who form part of the Messiaen ‘landscape’, from Ravel and Stockhausen to Dutilleux, Murail and George Benjamin. The CD has been selected as a record of the year in The Sunday Times, Editor’s Choice in Gramophone, and Instrumental Choice in BBC Music Magazine.
'Written on Skin' is the second collaboration between George Benjamin and Martin Crimp. Their previous one-act opera 'Into The Little Hill' has been received with universal acclaim. Written on skin was jointly commissioned by The Festival d Aix-en-Provence and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and this recording was largely produced from a broadcast recording by Radio France in July 2012 at Aix. George Benjamin’s status as one of the UK’s leading composers has created unprecedented demand for the new opera.