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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten conducts Britten
British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was a master composer AND a master conductor. Not only did he make numerous recordings conducting his own compositions, he also conducted very competent performances of other composers, including J.S. Bach and Robert Schumann. He was an exclusive London/Decca artist throughout his life and the recordings in this compilation...
Published on May 18, 2006 by Robert E. Nylund

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I should have researched more carefully
I bought this because I wanted the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, but I wrongly assumed that all versions were the narrated version I had when I was a kid. I'm going to have to find out where my mom got that one from, because that one broke up the piece into sections, so you could listen to a narrated description of just the woodwind section, for instance. This...
Published on October 6, 2012 by Susannah Smith


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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten conducts Britten, May 18, 2006
By 
Robert E. Nylund (Ft. Wayne, Indiana United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was a master composer AND a master conductor. Not only did he make numerous recordings conducting his own compositions, he also conducted very competent performances of other composers, including J.S. Bach and Robert Schumann. He was an exclusive London/Decca artist throughout his life and the recordings in this compilation were originally released on LPs on that label. They have now been superbly remastered for really high fidelity sound on compact disc.

The CD features a wonderful color photograph of Britten on the cover. He was a musician's musician, who challenged both singers and instrumentalists to strive harder. In an interview, Britten admitted that his music was often difficult to perform correctly. That became apparent when this writer had the opportunity to sing some of Britten's choral music, including "Ceremony of Carols," "Rejoice in the Lamb," and "War Requiem." His choral music IS singable, despite the great challenges, and not as "impossible" to sing as portions of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis," which I have also sung.

The 1963 recording of "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is a benchmark performance by the fabulous London Symphony Orchestra, truly one of the greatest of all orchestras. The individual performers, as well as the sections, all get a chance to "shine" as Britten uses a theme by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) to present a series of variations highlighting all of the sections and some of the individual instruments in the orchestra. Some recordings included narration; this performance simply presents the music in topnotch performances with great virtuosity throughout. The sound is exceptionally clear, too, making it possible to thoroughly enjoy this inspiring performance.

The compilation also includes Britten's delightful "Simple Symphony," one of his earliest and most popular works. Using the excellent string section of the English Chamber Orchestra, Britten was able to give a performance that again can set the standards for all future performances of this charming, sometimes very moving, music. The second movement is noted for its pizzicato playing; this extremely delicate and intricate music is performed with great precision by the British musicians. The third movement is, by far, the longest and most intense part of the symphony; Britten took a rather simple but profound melody and built upon it, until it reached an almost agonizing intensity.

There are also outstanding moments throughout Britten's "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge." Again using a theme and variations approach, Britten's recording with the English Chamber Orchestra not only showcases the outstanding performers but shows his incredible variety as he utilized numerous musical forms. Some of this music is enchanting and delightful. There are also sections which are very dramatic and even agonizing in their intensity. Frank Bridge, who died in 1941, was Britten's teacher and mentor; remarkably, the student has eclipsed the teacher in fame and popularity, but there's no question the student remained deeply devoted to his teacher, even after Bridge was no longer living.

For those unfamiliar with Britten's music, this compilation is a very good introduction to the wonderfully tonal but imagination music he produced during his all-too-short life. One should also listen to a recording of the four orchestral interludes from the opera "Peter Grimes," and then go on to listening to the complete opera (perhaps the greatest opera every written in English), followed by "War Requiem" and some of the other choral music he composed.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By definition...definitive, December 6, 2003
By 
Frank C. Adams (Boston, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
Unlike most listeners, I bought this for the 'Frank Bridge' work; I originally had it on LP, from over 20 years ago. The variations are, I think, one of the masterpieces of 20th century music. It was his first commission to receive widesprad attention and for good reason: his mastery of string instrumentation and sonics is truly astonishing. It is a piece I constantly return to.
The 'Young Person's Guide' is totally satisfying as well. Britten's interpretation is much more 'baroque' than the full orchestral sound we are used to; but it is much more convincing, particarly as the theme is by Purcell. And the 'Simple Symphony' is as charming as others have noted. All are recorded with excellent sound.
Britten as interpreted by Britten has to be considered definitive!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Young Person's Guide without the talk, March 21, 2007
By 
HB "HB" (Fort Mill, SC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra can be performed with or without narration. I prefer without since the music speaks for itself so eloquently. The theme is by Henry Purcell and it is gorgeous. After each section plays the theme for a few seconds, variations begin with the woodwinds, strings, brass and finally percussion. The work ends with a fugue and final proclamation of the glorius theme. It is a thrilling work that all ages can enjoy. The rest of the music is also wonderful and the composer directed performances are superior in every way. Although the sound is from the analog era, it is just perfect. Amazon says the CD is essential. I totally agree.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I should have researched more carefully, October 6, 2012
This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
I bought this because I wanted the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, but I wrongly assumed that all versions were the narrated version I had when I was a kid. I'm going to have to find out where my mom got that one from, because that one broke up the piece into sections, so you could listen to a narrated description of just the woodwind section, for instance. This one just plays straight through the whole work with no narration. The other selections on the cd are fine, but not amazing, certainly not as good as Britten's many masterpieces! So the cd is fine, I just didn't realize what it was.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classical Doesn't Get More Accessible Than This, April 18, 2010
By 
Jay Stone (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
This recording was originally issued on CD in 1990, and has remained at top price in the CD catalog since then. Prior to that it was an incredibly successful LP for many years. Why? Just listen! How often do you get to hear spectacular recordings of accessible works by one of the best 20th century composers - conducted by the composer himself?

Do yourself a favor: buy this CD. If you have children, let them listen too. You - and they - will love it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's A Reason This Album Sounds So Good, July 8, 2010
This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
The building you see behind Mr. Britten on this album cover was called "The Maltings," and its acoustics were apparently as fine as what you could hear in the famed Concertgebouw in Holland. Some of Decca's best string recordings were done in The Maltings, including the "Simple Symphony" on this album. As my brother David says, "The 'Simple Symphony' is hard to resist and easy to love." Try this album -- you won't be sorry!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are very few truly definitive recordings but this one qualifies for consideration, October 30, 2013
By 
This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
This disc compiles recordings originally published in 1964 (YPG), 1968 (Variations) and 1969 (SS). Britten was renowned for being an excellent conductor of his own work and so it transpires here. Decca provide recordings that have survived the passing of time very well and these give a pleasing mixture of glow plus brilliance. Both of these characteristics reproduce the playing of the musicians of course.

The three works on this disc are among the most easily accessed works that Britten composed and together they make a most attractive package. The Young Person's Guide sparkles with brilliant playing by members of the LSO and this is probably the most satisfying performance available on disc regardless of its age. The recording is very vivid with lots of 'presence.' It needs to be noted that this is the orchestral concert version without the additional descriptive script.

The Variations also offers superlative playing from the strings of the ECO and here there is a glowing sumptuousness added to the recording which is totally appropriate to the music. The Simple Symphony likewise gets wonderful playing.

All these pieces gain immeasurably from Britten's skilful direction. To say that his readings are perceptive or show enormous empathy seems ridiculous bearing in mind that he wrote the music, but that is exactly where these recordings score over all the competition.

Definitive recordings are generally doubtful descriptions given the wealth of recorded material now available, but in this case one is sorely tempted to use that description.

I would therefore suggest that collectors of either multiple versions or just single versions would do well to consider this disc as a priority option.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful recording, June 9, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
This is the absolute best recording of Simple Symphony I can find. Var. on Frank Bridge is nice and Young Person's Guide is also excellent.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Does not have the narration, September 28, 2014
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This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
I bought this because of Moonrise Kingdom. The record the girl plays throughout the movie is a version of this with narration. I remember listening to that as a kid. This version, however, does not contain the narration. The music is still interesting, but the childhood memory of listening, which was revived when I watched Wes Anderson's adorable movie, was missing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable for listening and learning!, January 17, 2014
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This review is from: Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Simple Symphony (Audio CD)
The CD allows me to review my knowledge of various instruments even while I am listening to excellent music I enjoy!
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