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British Divertimentos & Sinfoniettas


Here is a gem from the reborn Lyrita catalogue, recorded 1977/78 and coming up fine on digital remastering.

It celebrates the comparatively recent growth of the virtuoso chamber orchestra in Britain; younger listeners may be surprised that these burst onto the scene during my time and only gradually did we become aware that there were viable alternatives to the large symphony orchestra.

Britten's Op 1 was scored for the same grouping as Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony (strings solo quintet or small string orchestra) and given by Adrian Boult at RCM 1933.

For me, the gem of this collection is the possibly mis-named Sellenger's Round Divertimento of Tippett, one of my top favourites and arguably one of the best of his instrumental works (premiered 1954 in Zurich). Its modest title hides a ravishingly beautiful ecstatic Lament within a 20 minutes group of movements of intricate (and in earlier days daunting) rhythmic ingenuity. Norman del Mar steers the English Chamber Orchestra through these with aplomb, and likewise the other examples of the relatively new genre (in Britain, anyhow) brought together in this intriguing CD.

Generous notes by Michael Kennedy tell you all you could want to know about the works recorded by the ECO and Robert Layton gives the context for Arnold's Sinfonietta No 1, recorded here by LSO. A warmly recommended compilation.

Peter Grahame Woolf