LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: Four Sea Interludes (Peter Grimes); Gloriana – Symphonic Suite; Pas de six (Prince of the Pagodas)
PERFORMER: RLPO/Takuo Yuasa
CATALOGUE NO: CDEMX 2231 DDD
This collection of orchestral music by Britten finds the composer in many moods – from the stately Elizabethan pastiche of Gloriana, through the rumbustious dance music of the ‘Pas de six’ (from the ballet The Prince of the Pagodas), to the large grey skies so evocatively portrayed in the Four Sea Interludes.
‘Sunday Morning’ is the best known of these, not least because until recently it formed the signature tune to Brian Kay’s eponymous programme on BBC Radio 3. It contains a difficult mixture of styles, as the faintly ridiculous helter-skelter of the British Sunday in the country is superimposed on a much grander background canvas of religion and nature. This performance does not quite capture that elusive blend of pastoral charm and cynical observation so characteristic of Britten. Likewise, in ‘Moonlight’, the fervent melody surges dutifully backwards and forwards but without the sense of repressed desire that can make this one of the most compelling pieces of music Britten ever wrote.
Yuasa’s somewhat pedestrian approach may spoil these delicate, atmospheric pieces, but elsewhere it works to advantage. ‘Storm’, for instance, is ferociously brittle and exciting, and the dance music of the ‘Pas de six’ is charismatic and appealing. Christopher Lambton