Britten: Lachrymae; Simple Symphony; Temporal Variations; Suite on English Folk Tunes (A time there was…); A Charm of Lullabies

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COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Collins
WORKS: Lachrymae; Simple Symphony; Temporal Variations; Suite on English Folk Tunes (A time there was…); A Charm of Lullabies
PERFORMER: Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Philip Dukes (viola); Northern Sinfonia/Steuart Bedford
CATALOGUE NO: 15262
The Britten Estate may be able to turn elsewhere with its plans, but one of Britain’s essential recording companies will release no more. This wistful swansong from Collins underlines what a loss that is. Britten’s astonishing versatility makes him one of the few composers who can hold a concert programme alone, and this is an ideal chamber-orchestra sequence in which early and late angles on popular style flank three ‘guest appearances’ – with a little help from Colin Matthews. His arrangements of the piano parts for the Temporal Variations and A Charm of Lullabies are exactly the sort of things that Britten himself, had he lived to hear artists of the calibre of Nicholas Daniel and Catherine Wyn-Rogers, would willingly have undertaken (as he did with Lachrymae a few months before his death).

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Matthews respects the bald, epigrammatic dialogues with oboe in the quirky if not entirely successful earlier work, and adds some authentically Brittenish bars of his own to make the far-from-innocent cradle songs even more haunting. Lachrymae takes us further into introspective territory, and while the exuberance of ‘Cakes and Ale’ from the 1974 folksong suite makes a logical sequel, it’s the moments of secret rapture that Bedford observes so scrupulously both here and in an unusually subtle Simple Symphony which make these performances to treasure. David Nice