Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake

The unbeatable, multi-award-winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake turn to the composer Benjamin Britten for their latest Hyperion release.

Although Britten is particularly celebrated for the substantial body of music he composed for the tenor voice, the composer also left an important legacy of music for baritone. Characteristically, Britten’s output for low voice was also inspired by the talents of specific performers with whom he was closely associated, among them Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and John Shirley-Quirk. In addition to song-cycles, individual songs and folksong arrangements, Britten wrote challenging baritone roles in operas as diverse as Billy Budd (1951), Owen Wingrave (1970) and Death in Venice (1972)—the title role of the second of these made very much Gerald Finley’s own in his magnificent interpretation in Margaret Williams’s 2001 television film of the opera.

This disc contains Britten’s two important song cycles for baritone: Tit for Tat, setting the poems of Walter de la Mare, and the more substantial and challenging Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. The latter was written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; designed to showcase his unique blend of intense lyricism and dramatic characterization, qualities which are undoubtedly also exhibited by Gerald Finley.

Also included are some of Britten’s popular folksong settings, and a selection of later songs, which received exposure and publication only after the composer’s death in December 1976.

Performed with: Julius Drake, piano

Released June 2010


anon.: Lemady

anon.: She’s like the swallow

anon.: I wonder as I wander

Dibdin: The Oddities

Song. Tom Bowling

Britten: Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op. 74

  • I. Proverb I
  • II. London
  • III. Proverb II
  • IV. The Chimney-Sweeper
  • V. Proverb III
  • VI. A Poison Tree
  • VII. Proverb IV
  • VIII. The Tyger
  • IX. Proverb V
  • X. The Fly
  • XI. Proverb VI
  • XII. Ah, Sun-flower
  • XIII. Proverb VII
  • XIV. Every Night and every Morn
Britten: Tit for Tat
  • I. A Song of Enchantment
  • II. Autumn
  • III. Silver
  • IV. Vigil
  • V. Tit for Tat


Britten: Um Mitternacht

Britten: A Poison Tree


Britten: This way to the tomb

  • I. Evening
  • II. Morning
  • III. Night

Owen, D: David of the White Rock

anon.: Greensleeves

anon.: The Crocodile

anon.: The Deaf Woman’s Courtship

anon.: Bird Scarer’s Song