Britten: Lachrymae; Simple Symphony; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Prelude and Fugue; Elegy

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Lachrymae; Simple Symphony; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Prelude and Fugue; Elegy
PERFORMER: Lars Anders Tomter (viola)Norwegian CO/Iona Brown
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45121 2 DDD
Britten’s Lachrymae reflects on Dowland’s sombre ‘If my complaints could passions move’ and lingers in dark and ghostly places. Having said that, it is a tour de force of imaginative and dramatic string writing. One’s attention is gripped and held by the tension and conflict between soloist and orchestra. Tomter is the eloquent protagonist, gently pleading but also assertive and indomitable. His elegantly melancholic viola playing is also evident in the desolate Elegy. This dark side of Britten persists, for the most part, in the noble but tragic Prelude alternating with the more strong and outgoing Fugue. Here again, though, the ear is captivated by rich sonorities. However, the prevalent gloom seems to have dampened the spirits of the Simple Symphony, for Iona Brown’s ‘Bourée’ is more abrasive than ‘Boisterous’ and her ‘Pizzicato’ is not nearly as ‘Playful’ as the composer’s own crisp and lighter approach (Decca). Again, in the Frank Bridge Variations, the March and Romance are a shade heavy-handed, but the Rossini burlesque is very successful and so too is the deeply emotional Funeral March. In spite of my carping, the Norwegian CO offers assured performances with many exciting insights. Ian Lace

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