Journey to Aldeburgh: Young Britten

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COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Resonus
ALBUM TITLE: Journey to Aldeburgh: Young Britten
WORKS: Britten: Introduction and Allegro for Piano Trio; The Moon; Allegro; Suite, Op. 6; Sinfonietta, Op. 1; Frank Bridge: There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook (arr. Britten)
PERFORMER: Chamber Domaine/Thomas Kemp (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: RES 10139

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The title sails close to the wind: the latest of the original works recorded here dates from 1935, whereas Britten didn’t move to Aldeburgh until after the Second World War, so there was a rather longer ‘Journey’ to come. Still, Chamber Domaine’s choice of works makes for a satisfying and varied programme, showing (as Thomas Kemp’s booklet note rightly points out) that Britten’s early composing style encompasses music of serious substance, well before the ‘Aldeburgh effect’ and accompanying world fame came to dominate his life and work.

While the first ever recordings of the Introduction and Allegro, The Moon, and the solo piano Allegro have useful documentary value, the creative strength on display in the Suite and Sinfonietta is naturally a class apart. But the most striking listening here is the dark sound-world of Frank Bridge’s There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, as arranged by Britten for chamber group for the first Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The performances are faultlessly efficient and classy, although the insistent non-vibrato element in Kemp’s otherwise impressive violin-playing was not, surely, the kind of sound envisaged by Britten when he wrote the music.

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Malcolm Hayes