Britten: Simple Symphony, Etc / Bedford, Et Al

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As any student string player will tell you, Britten's Simple Symphony (originally conceived for school string groups) is not exactly "simple", at least regarding the...
As any student string player will tell you, Britten's Simple Symphony (originally conceived for school string groups) is not exactly "simple", at least regarding the individual technique required to play it well, not to mention the ensemble precision its four varied movements demands. Tempo is key (don't rush!) and dynamic contrast and energy in the bowing also are important components of a successful rendering of this attractive, idiomatic, and cleverly inventive work. As with most other recordings of Britten's music, the composer's own is the reference version (Decca), and when you compare its vitality and flair and razor-edged articulation with Steuart Bedford's more luxurious, softer-focus interpretation, you see why, even though the timings are similar, the expressive details that the composer heard and imagined suit the music best.


But we're also treated here to two rarely-heard works that appear in what were world-premiere recordings on this disc's initial 1998 release (on Collins Classics)--Temporal Variations, originally for oboe and piano, and A Charm of Lullabies, for voice and piano. The versions heard here are orchestrated settings by Colin Matthews (the song-cycle is also somewhat "altered" and "expanded"), and as much as I appreciate Britten's original conceptions, the orchestral realizations effectively bring them from the chamber to the concert hall and enable us to hear these pieces as inherently worthy of standard-repertoire stature.


Mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers is excellent in the songs, and oboist Nicolas Daniel, who gave Matthews the idea for his orchestration of the Temporal Variations, is equally assured and fluent. Although the sound isn't always as clear in the internal balances as we might prefer (most notable in the Simple Symphony), and the Northern Sinfonia's articulation isn't always as polished as we might expect, these are fine performances in very decent sound--worth owning for the revelatory reminder of what great music Britten wrote in his Temporal Variations and A Charm of Lullabies.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com


Product Description:


  • Release Date: January 18, 2005


  • UPC: 747313220526


  • Catalog Number: 8557205


  • Label: Naxos


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: ""


  • Composer: Benjamin Britten


  • Conductor: Steuart Bedford


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Northern Sinfonia


  • Performer: Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Nicholas Daniel, Philip Dukes