Friday Fun: A Charm (Benjamin Britten)

This is, quite simply, the most evil lullaby I’ve ever heard.

I especially like “The worst is called Tisiphone / Shall lash thee to eternity; And therefore sleep thou peacefully.”  Because that would make me feel better, I know…

This piece is part of a song cycle called “A Charm of Lullabies“, the rest of which are really quite innocuous.  This one, though, has a text by Thomas Randolph, who clearly had a baby who was teething in a big way.  Though I suppose it’s not really much worse than “Hushabye baby”, which ends with the baby’s cradle falling from the treetop with the baby still inside it.  Or perhaps not by that point.  (I really shouldn’t write these posts late at night, should I?)

The singer, Alice Coote, is a rather wonderful mezzo-soprano – I love her deep low notes, and the wonderful way she puts the mood of the song across.  Scary stuff.

Here’s another recording, this time by Sarah Connelly.  To me, it sounds just that little bit more unhinged than Alice Coote’s version, which is always a good thing, but her low notes are a bit too pretty for my taste.  I like the colour of Coote’s voice in this better.  Both gorgeous recordings, though.

Oh, and just in case you missed the lyrics, here they are:

Sleep! or I will make
Erinnys whip thee with a snake,
And cruel Rhadamanthus take
Thy body to the boiling lake,
Where fire and brimstones never slake;
Thy heart shall burn, thy head shall ache,
And ev’ry joint about thee quake;
And therefore dare not yet to wake!
Quiet, sleep!
Quiet, sleep!

Sleep! or thou shalt see
The horrid hags of Tartary,
Whose tresses ugly serpants be,
And Cerberus shall bark at thee,
And all the Furies that are three
The worst is called Tisiphone,
Shall lash thee to eternity;
And therefor sleep thou peacefully
Quiet, sleep!
Quiet, sleep!


(Sweet dreams)

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0 comments for “Friday Fun: A Charm (Benjamin Britten)

  1. 5-tails
    May 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Heh. Now we just need someone to turn Go the F*ck to Sleep into an Art-Song, and there’s the start of someone’s recital programme…

    (I’m not sure what that would do to your theory about English Art-Song being gorgeous poems set to music, mind you…)

    • May 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      I must admit, my first thought on hearing this was that it was a more literary version of “Go the F*ck to Sleep”. Though this one is a little bit more evil…

      I’d sing that program. Actually, you could have so much fun with a sleep / go to sleep / insomnia sort of program – there is so much material to work with. Come to think of it, Lady Macbeth falls into that category. Maybe if Trinity doesn’t approve my program, I’ll go that route…

  2. filkferengi
    June 6, 2013 at 5:15 am

    I’ll see you and raise you “Close Your Eyes” by Daniel Glasser: , starting about 1:50. The sign interpreter won a Pegasus for Best Performer a few years ago.

    Here’s a fun cover of the same song by CD Woodbury: [The recorder on the floor at the bottom left of the screen is mine; I’m on the front row just beyond it.]


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