"In Ainsley’s winsome recital, Tippett and Purcell meet as timeless contemporaries. The tenor’s sad, elfin sprightliness suits Tippett’s Songs for Ariel as much as Purcell’s Ah How Sweet. His burning, ardent tone pleads as effectively in The Heart’s Assurance as in What Shall I Do?
Ainsley’s voice is in prime form - it is effortless at the top of his range, and the seamless shift from full voice to falsetto is magical. He is abetted to the peerless song accompanist Iain Burnside, whose sensitivity to the texts equals the singer’s. A wonderful selection of poets, from Alun Lewis to the comical Mr D’Urfey, makes this as valuable to connoisseurs of literature as of the voice."
The Times Online - 2 July 2007
Recording ***** - Performances *****
"Taking its title from the last of The Heart’s Assurance, this recital juxtaposes four vocal works by Tippett (The Heart’s Assurance, Boyhood’s End, Music and Songs for Ariel) with none of the Purcell arrangements he made with Walter Bergmann when both were at Morley College; there is also Benjamin Britten’s Canticle I – a Purcellian counterpart to Boyhood’s End, like Heart’s Assurance written for Peter Pears’s voice.
The opening ‘Song’ has much of the complexity of the piano Concerto; after accompanying Pears in the premiere Britten declined to perform it again due to the fact that it required so much practice.
Other than the delightful Tempest settings these were for a 1961 Old Vic production, Tippett’s music needs some ‘head work’ – I remember as a a student listening in wonderment to his Third Programme talks, but failing to grasp much of what he said! – but you feel you owe it to Ainsley for his quite marvellous singing throughout the programme, and the supple matching accompaniments by Iain Burnside (this is a co-production with Radio 3’s Voices programmes, which he presents)."
Classical CD of the week
"Remember Your Lovers is the title of the final poem in Tippett’s enraptured song cycle The Heart’s Assurance, the centrepiece of this inspirational recital by John Mark Ainsley and Iain Burnside. There are homoerotic undertones to this cycle and Britten’s Canticle I, which ends, as Burnside puts it, in a "gay lullaby".
The Heart’s Assurance is also, like Tippett’s Boyhood’s End, an impassioned response by the composer to the senseless destruction of the Second World War, and Ainsley is acutely responsive to the cycle’s richly evocative text - the trembling kiss, the hurling night, the dark antechamber of desire - set unforgettably by Tippett.
The strong Purcellian influence on Tippett and Britten is also pointed up in the imaginatively conceived disc, wonderfully performed." ****
Evening Standard - 14 October 2005
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