Britten's works still sounding fresh

Edward Gardner leads the BBC SO through a fascinating cross-section of Britten's work with great skill and sensitivity

Composer: Britten
Repertoire:  Phaedra; A Charm of Lullabies; Lachrymae; Sinfonietta; Two Portraits
Artists: Sarah Connolly (mz), Maxim Rysanov (vla), BBC SO/Edward Gardner
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Vocal/Orchestral
Label: Chandos CHAN 10671

The Music: A fascinating cross-section of Britten’s composing life, ranging from the Two Portraits for strings, written shortly before he became a student at the Royal College of Music, to the haunting cantata Phaedra, a late masterpiece of gripping intensity.

The Performance: Britten’s instrumental writing is highly accomplished, even in such early works as the Two Portraits and Op.1 Sinfonietta, and the BBC SO under Edward Gardner responds with playing of great skill and sensitivity. They are joined in Lachrymae by viola player Maxim Rysanov, who gives an outstanding reading of these ‘reflections on a song of Dowland’, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, whose ravishing accounts of A Charm of Lullabies and Phaedra subtly suggest in their colourations the singers Britten originally composed for: Nancy Evans and Janet Baker.

The Verdict: Britten’s extraordinary ability to sound engagingly fresh and contemporary without resorting to gimmicks or ‘isms’ comes bubbling to the surface in these fine performances.

Want More? Don’t miss out on Gardner’s previous Britten disc, featuring the Four Sea Interludes (Chandos, CHAN 10658).