Purcell, Britten, PŠrt, Vaughan Williams, Walton & Tippett

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COMPOSERS: Britten,Part,Purcell,Vaughan Williams,Walton & Tippett
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Lachrymae Ð Music for Strings
WORKS: Works by Purcell, Britten, Pärt, Vaughan Williams, Walton & Tippett
PERFORMER: Nicolas Bône (viola); COE/Douglas Boyd, William Conway, Richard Egarr
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-60190-2
‘Lachrymae’ (Tears) is a reference to one of the John Dowland songs that forms the basis of the Britten work recorded here. As a title for the disc as a whole, though, I’m not sure how appropriate it is. Yes, much of the music recorded here has melancholy leanings. A great deal of care has obviously been given to interpretation, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe plays with its customary refinement and precision. But my heartstrings remained obstinately untugged. To take the most obviously ‘lachrymal’ pieces, Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten and Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’: conductor and players work determinedly to make every detail tell, but the effect is counterproductive – the expression sounds contrived. And much as one may admire the exemplary balancing in the more complex parts of Tippett’s Fantasia concertante or the superbly managed spatial effects in Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia, emotionally it’s pretty cool. Hear Paavo Järvi and the Estonian National SO in the Pärt, Neville Marriner and the ASMF in the Tippett and John Barbirolli with the Sinfonia of London in the Vaughan Williams and you’ll hear how passionate intensity and a strong sense of the music’s intellectual shape can go hand in hand. And while Warner’s recorded sound is often admirable, there are a few unfortunate noises: a huge intake of breath before the final climax of the Vaughan Williams, and rustling pages in the dying bell reverberation at the end of the Pärt – not exactly deafening, but atmospherically fatal. Stephen Johnson