Britten: Early Chamber Music

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COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Unicorn-Kanchana
WORKS: Early Chamber Music
PERFORMER: Derek Wickens (oboe), John Constable (piano); Gabrieli String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: UKCD 2060 DDD
This is a most welcome CD transfer of a 1982 LP, comprising chamber music written by Britten between the ages of 19 and 23 which in the early Eighties remained largely unpublished and unrecorded.

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Of the seven works on this disc, only the Phantasy Quartet for oboe and strings, Op. 2, is well known. However, one can only marvel at the competence of the Phantasy in F minor for String Quintet, the Three Divertimenti, the delightful Insect Pieces for oboe and piano and the brilliant Temporal Variations (also oboe and piano) that Britten apparently laid to one side after its first performance, and forgot! The oboist, Derek Wickens, with his nimble-fingered pianist, John Constable, produces a wonderfully rich velvety sound in the Variations, while confirming the stature of the Phantasy Quartet in a gripping performance with members of the Gabrieli String Quartet. The single movement Alla Marcia for string quartet was to have formed the first movement of a suite, together with the Three Divertimenti. These pieces, with their wide variety of colours, reveal astonishingly confident string writing and the Gabrielis respond with vigour and freshness. Annette Morreau