Requiem: The Pity of War, Ian Bostridge, Antonio Pappano produced by Stephen Johns

Johns, S. (2018) Requiem: The Pity of War, Ian Bostridge, Antonio Pappano produced by Stephen Johns. [Audio]


In a solo song recording, the relationship between singer, pianist and producer needs to be a balance of equals. Translating the intentions of the performers into material suitable for collation into a final master recording is the primary creative concern of the producer. During recording, I reflected continuously on both the musical results and intervening discourse of the performers between takes (which even together inevitably form an incomplete representation of their own concept of a work), as well as my own readings of the scores. In this creative environment, I needed both to encourage and demand the best of the performers, while satisfying my own musical understanding and technical standards. Textual accuracy, musical consistency and interpretative authenticity were all discussed throughout the session, in order that the end result both reflected the intentions of the performers and displayed coherence and logic. Balancing ideal dramatic intent and textual accuracy with the physical limits of vocal and pianistic range drew on my deep experience of how to elicit and capture the best materials (for example, songs by Mahler and Stephan were notably taxing for the vocalist; Butterworth and Weill demand different kinds of performance energy). Post-production, meanwhile, demanded a reflective process of analysis and judgement, as material from the recording sessions was assessed, retained or discarded. This involved extensive listening and plotting of edit scores alone, and then in discussion with Antonio Pappano. The resulting final master CD represents one possible outcome of the total musical activity on session, and subsequent analysis and choice of material.  Knitting the disparate elements into a cohesive and convincing whole is the creative product of both technical and artistic experience. One review noted ‘the atmosphere of sensual introversion is finely sustained… …A disc of great power and intelligence, it’s both haunting and undeniably strong’ (Gramophone).

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