I think it was the first concert, given by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, that I had ever been to - in the Floral Hall in Bournemouth where they used to play until moving to Poole - where I heard both the Spring Symphony and Belshazzer's Feast. The conductor, I think was Sylvestri. I hadn't heard either piece of music before, but what a feast! This British music was, and is, such a welcome change from the so-called cow pat music of Delius et al. Real vigour and excitement. I had not heard the Spring Symphony again until puchasing this excellent performance, Previn and the LSO at their best, and wonderful soloists and choirs too. This is a rather neglected piece of Britten's output (I can't think why after listening to this recording) but a joy to listen to.
Whatever anyone else says, this is one of Britten's very best works, and there is nothing remotely difficult or challenging in it. The sheer elan of the writing, especially in the 'scherzo' and finale, and the radiant lyricism of the alto numbers (written for Kathleen Ferrier) make this piece an absolute joy.
BB's own recording is pretty much definitive, despite now being over forty years old. I think this one, conducted by Previn is the very best of the others available. To have Janet Baker in the alto numbers is luxury casting, and she is at her shimmering gorgeous best. I used to dislike Tear's voice, finding it strained, but here he is at his best, pointing the texts with great intelligence and managing not to sound too much like a bargain-basement Peter Pears, which he sometimes does in his other Britten recordings.
I have just sampled the Hickox version, which is intelligently played (some of his tempi interestingly different from the composer's) but is let down by the soloists, all of whom have a disturbing flutter in their voices. Previn's team is just classier all round. The wonderful, riotous climax to the final movement is tremendous.
The coupling is a searching reading of the fantastic Sea Interludes. I thought, after my first hearing, that Previn had taken the Storm far too slowly (it is not even close to being the marked presto) but it is so detailed and has such contained anger (cf Previn's definitive recording of Walton's First Symphony) that it actually works.
This is a great recording. Recommended to Brittenites who don't already have these works (are there any?) and to newcomers to the music of this great, great composer.
I really can't believe that the other reviewer can give this only 1 star. It is an elderly recording (hence my dropping 1 star) but Dame Janet Baker, Sheila Armstrong, etc., etc. I grew up with this performance. It is splendid. If you want 'wonderful' modern digital (steely) sound then this is not for you. The climax of 'Sumer is a' cumin in' is great. At this price, it is miraculous.