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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Britten Collection, 23 Mar 2005
By 
J Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: Simple Symphony; Temporal Variations; Suite on English Folk Tunes (Audio CD)
Another in the reissues from Naxos from the valuable Britten series on the now-defunct Collins Classics, this program was originally published in 1998. Steuart Bedford is undoubtedly the leading Britten conductor and this is left in no doubt in this delightful collection of Britten works that span forty years of his composing life, from the 1934 'Simple Symphony' to the gorgeous set of variations for viola and orchestra, 'Lachrymae,' from 1976. All are played with clarity and élan.
The 'Simple Symphony' for strings is probably the most familiar piece here. It was put together by Britten from pieces he had written in childhood and the movements have witty titles: Boisterous Bourrée, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Sarabande, and Frolicsome Finale. Bedford sorts it forth in appropriately simple fashion, letting the music speak for itself. The Northern Sinfonia strings play beautifully for him. 'Temporal Variations' from 1936 was originally for oboe and piano but the present oboe soloist, Nicholas Daniel, suggested to composer Colin Matthews about ten years ago that he arrange it for oboe and strings and that is the version heard here. It was premièred at the Aldeburgh Festival with Bedford leading the English Chamber Orchestra. It is a neoclassic theme and eight variations in the form of character pieces with titles such as 'March,' 'Oration,' 'Commination' (an archaic term meaning 'denunciation'), 'Resolution.' Daniel is fine advocate for this fourteen-minute miniature oboe concerto.
'A Charm of Lullabies' Op. 41 (1947) is also fairly well-known and has been recorded many times, but usually with the original piano accompaniment. Here we again have an arrangement by Colin Matthews, this time for chamber orchestra, done for the Indianapolis Symphony. It is sung here with simple intensity and wonderful diction by mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers. 'Suite on English Folk Tunes' Op. 90 (1974) subtitled 'A time there was ...' was Britten's last purely orchestral work. It combines some seventeenth-century folksongs from Playford's 'The Dancing Master' with songs collected in the twentieth-century from rural sources. This is vintage late Britten with rhythmic complexity, brilliant orchestration and open-faced tunefulness. One hears echoes of the 'Sea Interludes' and 'Prince of the Pagodas' in the creative orchestration.
For me the most riveting of the works recorded here is Britten's masterful 'Lachrymae' Op. 48a (1976) for solo viola and string orchestra. Originally written for viola and piano for William Primrose in 1950, Britten recast it for viola and strings in 1976 for a performance by Cecil Aronowitz and the ECO at Aldeburgh. It is a theme and variations based on two tunes of Dowland: primarily 'If my complaints could passions be' and, in the sixth variation, 'Flow my tears.' Of course the title 'Lachrymae' is taken from the latter song and generally reflects the overall tone of the piece, although Variation 8 is a lively march. It makes brilliant use of the melancholy timbre of the viola and is played movingly here by Philip Dukes. This is the astringent Britten familiar to us from such works as 'Phaedra' and 'Death in Venice.' For all its restriction of means, it is a brilliant and moving work.
We can only be grateful that Naxos has kept these wonderful performances of Britten's music alive by reissuing the Collins/Bedford series.
Highly recommended.
TT=71:46
Scott Morrison
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Britten, 28 Jan 2010
By 
Mr. A. M. Methven (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: Simple Symphony; Temporal Variations; Suite on English Folk Tunes (Audio CD)
This is a superb jewel of a CD illustrating a less well known side of Benjamin Britten.
Some of the music will be familiar to many people although I suspect many will also be unaware of its origin.
I can heartily recommend the CD and trust other purchasers will gain as much enjoyment as I have from it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Briiten Simple Symphony, 25 July 2013
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This review is from: Britten: Simple Symphony; Temporal Variations; Suite on English Folk Tunes (Audio CD)
Ordered this after hearing the symphony live - it brought the performance to life beautifully; Britten at his most approachable.
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