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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mark Padmore and Britten Sinfonia: Britten, Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Nocturne; Finzi, Dies Natalis

Benjamin Britten was one of the most evocative composers of the mid-to-later 20th century. When it was a matter of paralleling a text, be it lyric content or libretto, no one had quite his ability to paint a musical picture that resonated utterly with the meanings involved, but in such a way that it was unmistakably the auteur's music staves that were at hand.

Celebrated tenor Mark Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia (Jacqueline Shave conducting) give a very effective reading of Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, his Nocturne and Gerald Finzi's Dies Natalis in a new release (Harmonia Mundi 807552).

The combination of the archaic quality of the natural horn harmonics (here we have Stephen Bell as soloist), the string orchestra's night-enfused score and the tenor's expressive vocal part give a poetic, atmospheric quality to the work. The performance of the Serenade given here most assuredly ranks up there with Britten's own verson. The night mood continues with the Nocturne, a less ponderous, more transient work.

Gerald Finzi's Dies Natalis ends the program on a more lyrical, naive note, as the text portrays the world through the eyes of a child. Finzi may not have been given his due as an English composer of stature, but he most certainly holds his own here and completes the mood of the more well-known Britten works.

Padmore is impeccable, the Britten Sinfonia detailed and expressive and the recording bright and well-staged in full sound dimension.

If you don't have these works you most certainly should if you follow the English 20th century orchestral-vocal masters. Those who have the Peter Pears-Benjamin Britten versions of the Britten works will find this recording a good version to contrast with them.

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