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Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Simple Symphony for Strings, Op. 4 (1934)
Temporal Variations (1936) Orchestrated by Colin Matthews (1993)
A Charm of Lullabies, Op. 41 (1947) Arranged by Colin Matthews (1990)
Lachrymae, Op. 48a (1976)
Suite on English Folk Tunes, Op. 90 (1974)

Nicholas Daniel, Oboe Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Mezzo-Soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Philip Dukes Viola
Northern Sinfonia/Steuart Bedford

Naxos 8.557205 [72 mins]

Here is one of the most delectable of CDs rescued from the Collins Classics list. Recorded with ideal sound by Mike Hatch, and conducted with all Steuart Bedford's experience and in depth knowledge of Britten's oeuvre it is a perfect programme of music from Britten's earlier and latest periods (1913-1976). Simple Symphony turns up too often, but not too often played as well as here. Colin Matthews places us in his debt with two chamber orchestra adaptations of the late rediscovered Temporal Variations, now a regular item for oboe recitalists, and enhanced by this elaboration with strings. The Charm of Lullabies is one of the composer's gems, and is presented here to perfection, with exceptionally clear diction from Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Britten's texts always repay careful attention). Lachrymae too gains from the composer's own 1976 expansion and Philip Dukes does the haunting viola part full justice. And lastly, 'A time there was ....', one of my particular favourites - the Suite on English Folk Tunes 'far removed from the sentimentality of the English pastoral tradition' (Lloyd Moore); I never understood why it isn't played far more often? A delicious hour and a quarter (allowing for pauses); a bargain to snatch up.

© Peter Grahame Woolf