Britten- Berg

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Ansermet BrittenBerg

COMPOSERS: Berg,Britten
WORKS: Britten: War Requiem; Les illuminations; Berg: Sieben frühe Lieder
PERFORMER: Suzanne Danco, Heather Harper, Chloe Owen (soprano), Peter Pears (tenor), Thomas Hemsley (baritone); Choeurs de la Radio Suisse Romande; Choeur Pro Arte; Petit Choeur du Collège Villamont; Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet


Few orchestras and conductors have been as closely entwined as Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. The partnership came to be known far and wide after the Second World War through their Decca recordings, notably in repertoire on which Ansermet had cut his teeth with the Ballets Russes. This new collection from Cascavelle is drawn from broadcasts of the 1950s and ’60s by Radio Suisse Romande.

It should be noted that, although mostly acceptable, the recorded sound is variable, with distortions periodically marring fuller textures. In the case of Britten’s War Requiem there is a disastrous anomaly.

Despite a couple of spectacular brass mis-fires in the Dies irae, this is mostly as moving an account as any, with a strong set of soloists. However, something goes dreadfully wrong in the Libera me and it is most apparent in the solo voices.

Britten may have wanted a sense of dislocation in the setting of ‘Strange Meeting’, but it is doubtful he wanted it to sound as if the singers were heard through tannoy speakers on a large railway station. This is especially frustrating as, despite being one of Ansermet’s favourite composers, he never recorded Britten’s works commercially as the composer was also signed to Decca.

The two-disc set also features a finely sung, but rather uninvolving account of Les illuminations from Suzanne Danco and an engaging recital from Chloe Owen of Berg’s Seven Early Songs, a composer who somehow eluded Ansermet’s general distaste for the serial school. Christopher Dingle