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Rattle Conducts Britten

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Product Details

  • Performer: Jill Gomez, Peter Donohoe, Mary King, Willard White, Peter Walden, et al.
  • Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Orchestra
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (October 23, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00004TL06
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,849 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
This album is a must for any classical music fan and for any Britten fan in particular. Rattle brings to these great pieces a vibrancy and energy that Britten would surely have enthusiastically approved . Aside from some of the more familiar works of Britten's such as the powerful and touching "Sinfonia da Requiem", we are treated to the less familiar "The Building of the House" written for the re-opening of the concert hall at Snape-Maltings which had previously burned down. This shows Britten at his inventive best in a rare orchestral work from his late period. Also included is "Suite on English Folk Songs" which was one of the last things he wrote before his premature death and shows that tragically, he was struck down at the height of his powers. Also we get to hear two recently unearthed pieces that had been apparently forgotten by Britten himself-"Occasional Overture" and one of my favorites from this collection, the wonderful "American Overture". All in all, a wonderful selection of Britten's work with performances worthy of the material. At the two-for-one price here, this is a collection you can't afford not to have.
Highly recommended!
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This is a great compilation of some of Britten's lesser-known orchestral works conducted by the great Simon Rattle who shows a great affinity for this music. Much of this music has been coupled with other releases like a pairing of Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 10" with Britten's "Sinfonia da Requiem," which was a great choice as both deal with war. I sometimes like to think of Britten as the English equivalent to Shostakovich. Both composers were very much anti-war and used music to deliver their messages. Listen to Britten's "Ballad of Heroes," "Sinfonia da Requiem," and "War Requiem" back-to-back. This is very much like a war trilogy of sorts. Anyway, this release with Rattle and the City of Birmingham Orchestra is top-notch. This orchestra proves yet again why it's one of the best under Rattle's baton.

Of particular interest to Britten fans, are some lesser known gems like "Suite On English Folk Tunes," "The Building of a House Overture," "Young Apollo," and "Scottish Ballad." This is a great introduction to Britten and will get you inside of Britten's sound-world. The next stop for some, who are interested in orchestral music, will be his "War Requiem" and "Les Illuminations." Some people, after hearing this set, will probably even start exploring his operas. Whatever the case may be, you'll enjoy this set immensely.

Don't forget to checkout Richard Hickox's Britten recordings on Chandos and Britten conducting his own music on Decca.
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This is a superb collection providing an endlessly fascinating and variegated portrait of Britain's perhaps greatest composer. Not all of the works here - perhaps even none of them (apart from Sinfonia da Requiem) - belong among the composer's most familiar ones. The set is nevertheless riddled with masterpieces and the performances are uniformly excellent. The earliest works here, composed when Britten was 14, are the beautiful and musically sophisticated Four French Songs of which Jill Gomez delivers a rapturous and sensitively accompanied performance. Their fragile beauty is well contrasted on disc 2 with superb performances of the volatile, scurrying and brilliant Young Apollo (one of the best performances I have heard) and the folksy, more robust Scottish Ballad. The Canadian Overture is lively and light and cheery if not perhaps among Britten's most memorable works; neither is the splendidly scored Occasional Overture, but at least Rattle and the Birmingham players make the most out of them. Disc 2 concludes with an immensely powerful rendition of the powerful (awe-inspiring, even) Sinfonia da Requiem, possibly the best in the catalogue of this deeply stirring work.

Moving to disc 1 we get a spry and brilliant and ebullient performance of the American Overture, an interesting if not wholly convincing work discovered after the composer's death. Ballad of Heroes is a major, stirring work, however, and it receives a moving, effective and muscular reading here with particularly impressive singing. The captivating and brilliantly written Diversions for left hand and orchestra may not be a timeless masterpiece, but the performances here certainly make you believe it is.
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This 2 CD set is a compilation of recordings made by Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus between 1982 and 1991 and a better selection of works by the brilliant composer Benjamin Britten would be difficult to match. Here Simon Rattle seems truly in his element, appearing to have a fine affinity for Britten's compositions. The works are indeed varied, yet for this listener the crowning work is Rattle's immensely powerful performance of the controversial 'Sinfonia da Requiem', a work with a charged history, having been originally commissioned by Japan in 1940 but later deemed unfit because of its 'Christian' identities. Would that the pacifist Britten had known what lay ahead with the world at war he probably would have not submitted this work. Yet as a pacifist the gorgeous orchestral requiem is a powerful and poignant anti-war vehicle. Rattle plays it with all of the quotes to future lines in 'Peter Grimes' and 'Death in Venice' subtly recognized.

But that is only one of the works in this well performed collection. Opening with the rarely heard 'American Overture' and early 'Ballad of Heroes' with Robert Tear as the fine soloist, the collection features the unusually lovely 'Diversions for piano left hand and orchestra' that Britten wrote for Paul Wittgenstein, here performed by Peter Donohoe (who also collaborates with Felix Kok, Jeremy Ballard, Peter Cole and Michal Kaznowski for the opus 16 'Young Apollo'.

Included are 'Quatre Chansons Françaises' with Jill Gomez as the exquisite soloist, several overtures, 'Praise We Great Men' in the 1976 orchestration by Colin Matthews, 'Suite on English Folk tunes' and 'Scottish Ballad'. The performances by the orchestra, chorus, and various soloists are on a consistently high level. This is one of the opportunities to really understand the works of Benjamin Britten outside of his famous operas and War Requiem. It is a joy. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 06
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