Stravinsky, Tippett, Britten

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Stravinsky,Tippett
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Suite No. 1; Suite No. 2; Aria & Cabaletta from The Rake’s Progress; Pastorale; Lied ohne Name; Three Shakespeare Songs; Fanfare for a New Theatre
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano); Basel CO/ Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 92650 2
It is always refreshing to encounter a disc in which consideration has been given to providing a balanced and thought-provoking programme. This is the second instalment in Christopher Hogwood’s ‘Modern Classicists’ series, and is built upon an eclectic group of Stravinsky’s smaller-scale works, with substantial historically influenced interjections by Tippett and Britten. The result is in marked contrast to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s foray into the world of Stravinsky’s miniatures (DG), in which the scattergun whole somehow falls short of the sum of the delightful parts. By separating the two Suites for small orchestra to form a frame, Hogwood heightens awareness of their individual features, throwing into relief the intervening works, with the vocal and small-scale items on the disc providing an intimate heart at its core.

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It is a pity that the resonant acoustic distances the listener from the orchestra and, set alongside Stravinsky’s own recordings (Sony), the concluding ‘Balalaika’ of the first Suite admittedly plods rather than zips along. Similarly, although the ‘Tarantella’ of Britten’s Sinfonietta builds up a head of steam, there is little sense of danger. Nevertheless, it is difficult to remain impervious to the cumulative effect of these blithesome performances.

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Emma Kirkby is predictably delectable, floating through the Pastorale and an ideally innocent Anne Truelove in the excerpt from The Rake’s Progress, while the Basel Chamber Orchestra is heart-rending in the ‘Lament’ from Tippett’s Divertimento. Better performances are available of individual works, but this is by far the most satisfying disc as a self-contained programme. Christopher Dingle