Britten/Purcell

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten/Purcell
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Sinfonia da Requiem; The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra; Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia from ‘Peter Grimes’; Chacony for Strings in G minor
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61226 2 ADD
These are very desirable issues: strong performances and interesting programmes. There is nobility, exultation and virtuosity aplenty in both the Hickox and Slatkin readings of The Young Person’s Guide, with the Chandos recording marginally clearer and more dynamic. Hickox’s ‘Sunday Morning’, the second Sea Interlude, vividly evokes the curving flight of the seabirds, the glittering sunshine on the sea and the church bells. Slatkin’s ‘Moonlight’ interlude is nicely paced to a brilliant climax and he has the advantage of a powerfully dramatic Passacaglia.

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The Sinfonia da Requiem, probably Britten’s finest orchestral work, anticipates the War Requiem and can be seen as the composer’s plea for peace. Slatkin’s view of the Dies irae scherzo movement with its rasping, snarling chords, reveals all the bestiality and horror of war. The contrasting Chacony is relaxed and stately.

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The music for the surrealistic Johnson over Jordan, about the soul’s experiences immediately after death, is menacing and mystical in turn and the ‘Spider Dance’ is a clever pastiche on Thirties popular band music which Hickox brings off with great aplomb. Britten’s last orchestral work, the Suite on English Folk Tunes, although sparsely orchestrated, is highly imaginative and arresting. The dialogue between harp and strings in ‘The Bitter Withy’ is especially beguiling. Ian Lace