SIR MICHAEL TIPPETT: A Child of our Time – Indra Thomas, soprano/ Mihoko Fujimura, alto/ Steve Davislim, tenor/ Matthew Rose, bass/ London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/ Colin Davis, conductor – LSO Live Multichannel SACD LSO0670, 63:59 ****:
Don’t be persuaded by the jacket notes that say this recording was done in 5.1 sound—the center channel is all but inaudible, and even cranking it up full didn’t do much for the presentation. Neither are the rear speakers anything to write home about, so for all practical purposes this is really 2-channel SACD sound, not much different from the hybrid stereo tracks. This is quite disappointing, for Tippett’s anti-war masterpiece would really benefit from some spectacular sound (as this is the first time that it has appeared on SACD), so what we have is a greatly squandered opportunity.
This is not to say that the performance is without redeeming qualities, for all in all it is very well done indeed, perhaps a little faster in places that the conductor’s Philips effort (and indeed only a minute and change shorter than that one) but it feels decidedly speedier than it really is. Just listen to the opening bars—the Philips is brooding and mysterious, like we are peering around the corner of a bombed city street not knowing what to expect, whereas this version is more declamatory and documentary-like, emphatically stating what we are and are not to understand about the text with no uncertainties. Perhaps after years of performance Colin Davis feels that way about the work—he knows it better than anyone alive—but some might think that a recording should be more about the mysteries of the unknown than sitting and garnering wisdom at the master’s feet.
Quite simply then, the first recording by Davis on Philips is still the one to get. It has sound that is better balanced and actually more vivid than this, the singers are nonpareil (Jessye Norman, Janet Baker, Richard Cassilly, John Shirley-Quirk), and the musical line is one of joint discovery, not the Discovery Channel. This one is a notch above the one I reviewed back in May 2008 , and I would discount the one by the composer himself on Naxos, or the Hickox on Chandos (sounding very nice but slow as molasses – the slowest of the bunch). The Philips is well worth the eighteen bucks as you get the best there.
— Steven Ritter