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CD Review

Benjamin Britten

  • Simple Symphony for Strings, Op. 4 (1934)
  • Temporal Variations (1936) Orch. Colin Matthews (1993) 1
  • A Charm of Lullabies, Op. 41 (1947) Arranged Colin Matthews (1990) 2
  • Lachrymae, Op. 48a (1976) 3
  • Suite on English Folk Tunes, Op. 90 (1974)
1 Nicholas Daniel, oboe
2 Catherine Wyn-Rogers, mezzo-soprano
3 Philip Dukes, viola
Northern Sinfonia/Steuart Bedford
Naxos 8.557205
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Here is one of the most delectable of CDs rescued from the Collins Classics list. Recorded with ideal sound by Mike Hatch, and conducted with all Steuart Bedford's experience and in-depth knowledge of Britten's oeuvre it is a perfect programme. Simple Symphony turns up too often, but not too often played as well as here. Colin Matthews places us in his debt with two chamber orchestra adaptations of the late rediscovered Temporal Variations, now a regular item for oboe recitalists, and enhanced by this elaboration with strings. The Charm of Lullabies is one of the composer's gems, and is presented here to perfection, with exceptionally clear diction from Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Britten's texts always repay careful attention). Lachrymae too gains from the composer's own 1976 expansion and Philip Dukes does the haunting viola part full justice. And lastly, the Suite on English Folk Tunes, 'A time there was….', is one of my favourites - I never understood why it isn't played far more often? A delicious hour and a quarter and a bargain to snatch up.

Copyright © 2005, Peter Grahame Woolf