Recording of December 1962: Britten: Noye's Fludde

Britten: Noye's Fludde
Owen Brannigan, Sheila Rex, Trevor Anthony, Children's Chorus, and East Suffolk Children's Orchestra, Members of the English Chamber Orchestra, Norman Del Mar, conductor
London OS-25331 (LP). Colin Graham, prod. Recording date, 1961-07-03. Recording venue, Orford Church, Suffolk. TT: 48:00

This musical setting of the Chester miracle play about Noah, his ark, and the problems attendant thereof, if one of the most movingly beautiful recorded works I have ever heard. Its simplicity and sincerity are a stinging rebuke to those contemporary composers who have forgotten that music is basically an expression of emotion, without which its appeal can be only to the logic-oriented "mind" of a computing machine.

Recorded at an actual public performance, this is an absolute tour de force; the word "incredible" crossed my mind several times as I listened. I do not hesitate to place it among the supreme technical achievements of disc recording, and I find it almost impossible to pick any specific qualities of the sound for analytical evaluation. The only word that comes to mind is "natural," and how can one describe an impression such as this in terms of technical details?

I can say, though, that if a live performance in stereo is categorically this much better than a recording session, I would be all in favor of outlawing recording sessions, for I do not recall having heard any disc with such a remarkable sense of realism as was captured on this one. For reasons which I fail to understand, the bass on this disc is astounding; no sodden boom, but some of the deepest, tightest lows I have heard from any disc, stereo or mono. The entire sound is lucid and detailed, and tracking is so clean that it is hard to imagine that the master tape could have been any cleaner.

This is a record you must have, regardless of your musical tastes, for not only is it a joy to listen to, it is all the proof that anyone could ever need of the superiority of good stereo over the best mono sound.—James W. Keeler

pbarach's picture

This recording remains outstanding in its CD version. It's a great but neglected piece, one of Britten's best. As a side note, Wes Anderson used parts of Noye's Fludde on the soundtrack of Moonrise Kingdom, if I recall correctly.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'Moonrise Kingdom' movie soundtrack has Alexandre Desplat as the composer in its credits ......... Yes, there are several Benjamin Britten composed tracks in the movie soundtrack ......... They do mention Benjamin Britten as the composer for those tracks :-) ..........

jcmorrison's picture

I remember the excerpts from the Simple Symphony, but I’m not familiar enough with Noye’s Fludde to have recognized its presence. Looks like I’m going to have to get it and listen.

jcmorrison's picture

Was this review published originally in High Fidelity? I remember from my callow adolescence a review there that was equally adulatory.

John Atkinson's picture
jcmorrison wrote:
Was this review published originally in High Fidelity?

No, it was Stereophile. I bought this performance on an Argo reissue in the late 1970s and it is every bit as good as the late James Keeler wrote.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

jcmorrison's picture

D’oh! While I’ve picked up a smattering of Stereophile’s history in reading your pages, I didn’t realize it had started as early as 1962. I gave up on High Fidelity long before it went tits up, and I didn’t become aware of Stereophile until 1984, when I saw an issue on the counter of the store where my late wife and I bought our first system. I’ve been a constant and happy subscriber ever since.

curbfeeler's picture

Argo ZK 1. I have two copies of this record, both English pressings issued in 1976. One has the muted green label, the other a red, white and blue label. Green label is a 6W mastering both sides. RWB label is 6W mastering on side 1, and ostensibly a 7X mastering on side 2, though the font used in the deadwax is not typical. Perhaps this was a case in which PolyGram pressed a UK mastering of a Decca recording? PolyGram did not acquire Decca until 1980, if I am not mistaken.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Teen-age girls were chasing the young & handsome JA in high school in 1962 :-) ........

"Girls Chase Boys" .......... Ingrid Michaelson :-) .........

"A Teenager in Love" ............. Dion & The Belmonts :-) .............