A distinguished and consistently absorbing Britten anthology spanning his entire creative career, from the jaw-droppingly confident Quatre chansons francaises
(the work, remember, of a 14-year-old schoolboy) to Colin Matthews' sensitive performing version of the sketches for Praise We Great Men
(a setting of a poem by Edith Sitwell, upon which the composer was working at the time of his death in December 1976). The pacifist cantata Ballad of Heroes
dates from March 1939 and, two months later, Britten embarked for North America, where, over the next three years, he produced a succession of giddily inventive scores, culminating in the brilliant Diversions
for left-hand piano and orchestra (fabulously dispatched here by Peter Donohoe) and shattering Sinfonia da Requiem
(of which Rattle and the CBSO give a belter of a performance). Jumping forward more than a quarter of a century brings us to the bustling overture The Building of the House
(written to commemorate the 1967 opening of the Snape Maltings concert hall), and we also get Britten's very last orchestral offering, the wonderfully poignant 1974 Suite on English Folk Tunes: "A time there was..."
. Now retailing at lower mid-price, this set is more desirable than ever. So, if you hesitated first time round, you've no excuse now. --Andrew Achenbach
2CD W/Simon Rattle, C.B.S.O.