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Very British

Metamorphosen Berlin/Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt (cello) (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Very British
Britten: Simple Symphony; Elgar: Serenade for Strings; Salut d’amour; Romance, Op. 1; Two Pieces, Op. 13; Idylle; La Capricieuse; Rosemary; Carissima; Adieu; Karl Jenkins: Palladio – Allegretto; Warlock: Capriol Suite
Metamorphosen Berlin/Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt (cello)
Sony Classical G0100045460061 (digital only)   78:07 mins


At a quick glance, this latest album from the sumptuous string players of Metamorphosen Berlin might not seem to offer much for veteran collectors of British music beyond the quirky German perspective found in the garrulous booklet notes. On matters of interpretation, though, the ebullient account of Britten’s Simple Symphony should tickle everyone’s ears. Launched with a dashingly fast ‘Boisterous Bourrée’, given ballast by a deeply felt ‘Sentimental Sarabande’, this is the kind of performance that should stop anyone taking Britten’s buoyant youthful creation for granted.

The romantic ache inside Elgar’s music also strikes a responsive chord with this orchestra, co-founded 11 years ago by Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt and Indira Koch. The Serenade for Strings, its intervals judiciously oiled with slippery hints of portamento, radiates warmth enough, though the temperature rises higher still in Schmidt’s arrangement of nine of Elgar’s ‘salon’ morsels, many originally conceived with a solo violin in mind.

In every case Schmidt relocates the music’s heart to his own instrument, the cello. His burnished, throbbing tone could probably melt an iceberg. As Salut d’amour gave way to ‘Rosemary’, ‘Carissima’ and the rest, I felt I wasn’t so much listening as guiltily eating my way through a box of luxury chocolates. The tastebuds don’t get such a ravishing from Warlock’s Capriol Suite or Karl Jenkins’s little earworm, Palladio, but that’s probably just as well. All in all, with its full-bodied playing and open emotions, this is an album that should redefine what it means to be ‘very British’.


Geoff Brown