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Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy

Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano/ Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano/ Philip Langridge, tenor/ Stephen Roberts, baritone/ David Wilson-Johnson, bass-baritone/ John Tomlinson, bass London Sinfonietta/David Atherton, conductor

NMC Ancora D138

A hearty welcome for NMC/Ancora's cheap reissue of the scarifying 1979 studio recording of the young firebrand Birtwistle's Punch and Judy, which thrilled and deafened me in its 1968 premiere run at the tiny Jubilee Hall on Aldeburgh's beach; folklore has it that Britten & Pears walked out on it in disgust...

It is a marvel of precision in the playing of the London Sinfonietta under David Atherton (founder conductor, 1968) and all the casting is from strength.I like the Sunday Times quote: " - - a gripping luridness - - setting a libretto of manic intellectuality by Stephen Pruslin, the opera moves with an implacable, raucous energy."

You can download it for £10, but I advise the little extra for the full package, beautifully presented, with complete libretto and an important essay by its author. The recording quality is of demonstration class and it has been an exilarating pleasure to revisit its beautiful savagery

Peter Grahame Woolf