(P)1992 by Blackstone Audiobooks
Robert Browning is one of my favorite poets, and so many of his poems -- dramatic monologues, narrative poems, etc -- are so readily performable, that I was quite excited to download this recording. But it sounds as if Frederick Davidson, having never so much as looked at the poems before, decided to wing it with all the wrong instincts. His reading is thoughtless, singsongy, and not even all that clearly enunciated. He steamrolls over the humor and nuance of the poems and absolutely flattens all the liveliness of the characters. Honestly, I want my money back.
"The masculine poetic"
This recording is superb value. So many of the poetry selections on CD are disappointingly brief. This collection includes many of Browning's most characteristic and brilliant works. Try reading some of them aloud yourself and you will appreciate how incredibly difficult they are to voice, with their complex syntax, frequent ironic interpolations and sheer density of meaning.
I have downloaded several readings by Frederick Davidson and have sometimes found his voice a bit arch and over-posh to listen to for long. However, Browning is definitely his territory: he communicates superbly the high-intellectual, urbane personality of the poet. Download this to remind yourself or discover that there is a lot more to Victorian verse than languishing neurasthenic ladies, nonsense doggerel and mawkish pieties.
"good value but off-putting narration"
I love Robert Browning's poetry, particularly his long monologues, and read out loud by someone who has a feel for the rhythm and his ideas, you appreciate Browning's true greatness. Unfortunately, Frederick Davidson does not cut it as a narrator for me. He simply lacks the subtlety to bring what the poems are about. Generally I like him as a narrator - his Vanity Fair is brilliant for example - but not this time.
The best reader of Browning is James Mason. Audible do a selection - alas all to brief - but if I were you, I would spend my money on Mason reading only a few poems rather than this longer volume - which, to be fair, is quite a good selection if you can bear the narration. Do listen to the sample first to make up your own mind.
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