Allan Clayton and Aldeburgh Strings perform songs and chamber works by Benjamin Britten

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COMPOSERS: Benjamin Britten
LABELS: Linn
ALBUM TITLE: Britten
WORKS: Young Apollo; Lachrymae: Prelude and Fugue for 18 strings; Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings
PERFORMER: Allan Clayton (tenor), Richard Watkins (horn), Máté Szücs (viola), Lorenzo Soulès (piano); Aldeburgh Strings/ Markus Däunert
CATALOGUE NO: Linn CKD 478

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Here’s a remarkably effective and unusual programme. Though featuring the Aldeburgh Strings, it offers not the usual all-string showpieces like the Frank Bridge Variations, but such less regarded works as Young Apollo and the Prelude and Fugue, Op. 29; together with the short but potent Lachrymae, their shared melancholy is an effective foil to the generally more ebullient Serenade. In that deft masterpiece, tenor Allan Clayton’s hushed tone for ‘Pastoral’ is quite different from the dedicatee Peter Pears’s more mellifluous approach, yet effective and engaging. And in the following Tennyson song, ‘Nocturne’, aided by the Aldeburgh Strings’ splendidly evocative playing, Clayton sounds suitably heroic at the final ‘Blow, bugle, blow’. Director Markus Däunert is clearly unafraid of looking at the score afresh: in ‘Pastoral’ he follows the score’s marked faster tempo for ‘A very little, little flock’ more faithfully than did Britten in his stereo recording, heightening that episode’s whimsical tone. Horn soloist Richard Watkins is as familiar with this work as any other, having performed Serenade with Pears in 1983: he carries off the gambolling fanfares of ‘Nocturne’ and the ‘Hymn’ with panache, and in Blake’s ‘Elegy’ his strangulated G naturals chillingly convey the rose’s corruption.

The other works receive attentive and atmospheric accounts: Lorenzo Soulès plays Young Apollo’s glittering piano part with charismatic dash, though the accompanying string quartet sound intense rather than joyous, and the viola soloist in Lachrymae, Máte Szücs, plays Britten’s variations with feeling, though is rather matter-of-fact when the original Dowland melody finally emerges.

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Linn CKD 478   55:03 minsDaniel Jaffé