Renowned conductor Antonio Pappano is best known as music director of the Royal Opera House, but he is also a very fine pianist. Songs on texts by William Shakespeare finds Pappano accompanying the equally renowned English historian and tenor Ian Bostridge on an expansive collection featuring composers across five centuries who have set Shakespeare’s texts and musical dramatic devices, very few of which are stand-alone songs, to music.
Not surprisingly, English composers are a strong presence: these include Morley, Byrd and their contemporary John Wilson, whose Take, o take those lips away is a highlight. Quilter’s Come away, death is mysterious and affecting, greatly impressing and influencing Warlock, who is also featured here, along with Britten and Tippett.
Bostridge is commanding throughout, and justly famous for his attention to detail and extraordinarily nuanced delivery. The recording is glorious: rich, spacious and resonant. The final track on this collection, When that I was and a little tiny boy (Anon.), sung a cappella by Bostridge, is nothing short of extraordinary, from both performance and recording perspectives.
The sumptuous packaging contains meticulously researched and detailed liner notes by Christopher Wilson, and includes all song texts. This is an excellent and beautifully presented collection which will repay repeated listening for years to come.