Britten • Macmillan • Vaughan Williams

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COMPOSERS: Britten,Macmillan,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Britten * Macmillan • Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Vaughan Williams: Oboe Concerto*; MacMillan: One; Oboe Concerto; Britten: Suite on English Folk Tunes – ‘A Time There Was’
PERFORMER: Nicholas Daniel (oboe, *conductor); Britten Sinfonia/James MacMillan
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 807573 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Nicholas Daniel both takes the solo part in Vaughan Williams’s appealingly pastoral Concerto and directs the Britten Sinfonia strings. He tends to let the tempo slacken when the harmonic pulse slows down, for example in the poignant later stages of the first movement; but it’s hard to complain when that leaves more space for his consistently golden tone.

For James MacMillan’s 2010 Concerto, Daniel hands over the direction of the accomplished orchestra to the composer – not surprisingly, as the solo part, written for him, requires all the player’s attention and stamina. Two hyperactive and hyper-virtuosic quick movements enclose a central slow movement, adapted from a solo oboe piece written in the wake of the events of 9/11, in which the soloist spins an ornately decorated lament, sometimes in keening duos and trios with orchestral woodwind, and occasionally forced to give way to the overwhelming power of the orchestra.

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In this imaginative programme – given a vivid recording in St John’s Smith Square – MacMillan also conducts his One, a luminously scored monody written for the Britten Sinfonia, and Britten’s late suite on English tunes A Time There Was. This has some gleeful folk-style fiddling in ‘Hunt the squirrel’, and Daniel returns to the ranks of the orchestra (which he was instrumental in founding) to play the achingly nostalgic cor anglais solo in the closing ‘Lord Melbourne’. Anthony Burton