on 4 October 2009
Britten has set great poetry here to very interesting and varied music, and what better way to get to know poetry than through a musical setting. This recording still sounds extremely good after all these years and there is nothing much to criticize about the performance, unless, like some, you are allergic to Peter Pears.
The recording was made in Kingsway Hall London almost fifty years ago not long after a BBC radio broadcast with the same forces. At that time I was a member of the boys choir from Emanuel School that took part. For us boys, the astringent cowhorn used in the finale was of great interest, as was the soprano, whose creamy tones interrupted our 'driving boy' a little too often for our tastes. We had a lot of difficulty satisfying Britten with the amount of noise he needed, especially in the finale, when the boys come in at the end with Sumer is icumen in. We also needed to learn to whistle properly. We realised quite soon that Britten would not be easily satisfied, as he made take after take, and then disappeared off the podium to listen to them. (To my everlasting chagrin, I was probably not in the finale at all, as the final take occurred after I had had to seek out a lavatory. I am also sorry to say that after this sparkling debut, my recording career did not continue.)
on 29 May 2000
I could not resist Amazon's invitation to review this disc, but it is the review of an enthusiast rather than a scholar.
I first heard the Spring Symphony 40 years ago and was immediately captivated by its freshness and evocation of the weather and atmosphere of an ideal English spring. It was in fact my introduction to what I regard as mainstream Britten giving a magnificent example of his deeply personal use of orchestra and the human voice, and indeed his knowledge of the highways and byways of English poetry. This disc enhances the original vinyl version and should be snapped up by other enthusiasts as Britten for me stands head and shoulders over other artists in the performance of his works. The CD also provides the Britten recordings of Cantata Academica and the graceful Hymn to St Cecilia.
on 29 May 2000
Browsing through the Amazon catalogue,I was moved to find out whether this work, one of my favourites, had been converted onto CD. Imagine my joy when I found out that it had.
I first heard the Spring Symphony 40 years ago, and, having only previously heard The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra, was immediately captivated by the simplicity of concept and yet very individual expression of Britten's writing. It was my introduction (as I see it) to mainstream Britten. The work develops from a treatment of the world emerging from winter in the first two numbers, featuring predominantly woodwind and brass, and breaks out joyously into a setting for full orchestra of the Nashe poem, Spring the Sweet Spring. Thereafter the work is full of visions of the English spring as seen by some of its most distinguished poets, with a pensive interlude where the mezzo-soprano sings of the gathering clouds of war in Auden's poem, Out on the Lawn... The work then gathers to a climax where full chorus and orchestra celebrate the coming of summer. In this number one can feel the sun at full strength.
I would urge other enthusiasts to snap up this disc while Britten's own performance is still available, especially as it is not often to be heard in the concert hall these days.