Unveiled: Britten | Tippett | Gipps | Browne | Thomas

In Jeremy Sams’ new English-language singing version of Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, the passionate sentiments are liberated from the safe historical distance of the Italian Renaissance and unveiled in a way that was not possible in 1940, when Britten wrote the cycle – his first for his partner Peter Pears.

Tenor Elgan Llŷr Thomas presents it alongside Michael Tippett’s equally ardent Songs for Achilles and a short item by W. Denis Browne, a close friend of the poet Rupert Brooke, as well as premiere recordings of four Brooke settings by Ruth Gipps and a new song-cycle by Thomas himself, to poems by Andrew McMillan.

Tackling themes of love, shame, acceptance, war and death, the programme traverses a history of male homosexuality from necessary discretion to the (relatively) liberated present.

"Elgan Llŷr Thomas, possessor of a strong yet lyrical tenor voice, is an arresting narrator through this exploration of male homosexuality. Headlining his programme of songs by Tippett, Ruth Gipps and Thomas himself, is Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, setting love poetry by the Renaissance artist, but presented here in a new singing version that liberates the original language from its sanitised translations. Pianist Iain Burnside and guitarist Craig Ogden add ample magic to an enchanting album"



"As a young gay man, Thomas devotes his album to LGBTQ+ representation in music, focusing on gay composers and poets….We progress …on to Elgan Llŷr Thomas’ own composition Swan, eight short songs that are a nod to both the closeted Tchaikovsky and Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake. They show off Thomas’ range and clarion top as well as his excellent diction…Ian Burnside is the committed and passionate pianist. It is an interesting album on a fascinating theme"

"Hearing Britten's Michelangelo Sonnets in Jeremy Sams's direct English translations is quite a revelation, underlining the fact that this is a cycle about a 'love that dare not speak its name' with a frankness which would have been nigh-on impossible at the time the work was premiered. Thomas and Burnside do it full, impassioned justice, and the Welsh tenor's own SWAN (combining tenderness and flashes of quirky humour) acts as a most effective counterpart; Tippett's Songs of Achilles, meanwhile, reveal a muscular core to the voice which suggests that the more dramatic Britten roles could well figure in his future..."


“With Unveiled, in which Welsh tenor Elgan Llÿr Thomas is joined variously by pianist Iain Burnside and guitarist Craig Ogden, an underpinning theme of openness offers fresh perspective on Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (presented in a "new English singing version” by Jeremy Sams) and […] the singer’s own theatrically-charged song cycle Swan, which he and Burnside perform with thoughtful elan”

★ ★ ★ ★

"There is nothing remotely ambiguous about Thomas’s jewel-like tenor, an authoritative voice of considerable stature that could carry with ease across his hometown of Llandudno. There are echoes of both Pears and Robert Tear in the clarity of execution and the communication of emotion ... there’s real energy and passion in the voice, nowhere more discernible than in the Michelangelo sonnets. ... Thomas pours his heart and soul into these songs; wonderfully tender in ‘Sonnet XXX’, elsewhere fiery, lovelorn and adoring, movingly so in the final song when his singing of the ‘flawless face I love so dearly’ is beyond beautiful. Throughout the disc, accompanist Iain Burnside is a sensitive and poetic collaborator with a chameleon-like ability to adapt to the varied musical characterisations within this confessional-style programme. Well worth investigating!"

Release Date: 23 June 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34293
Total playing time: 1:03:58

Recorded on 22-24 November 2022 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haddington
Producer & Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxer

Design: Drew Padrutt
Booklet editor: John Fallas
Cover photograph: Cody Murray
Session photography: foxbrushfilms.com

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Featured interview


Elgan on Unveiled

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Album Booklet

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