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Britten Les Illuminations - ClassicalCDReview.com


07 February 2005
ClassicalCDReview.com

The Britten collection on Linn is extraordinary in every way-first rate performances and stunning sonics. All three works were composed by Britten early in his career. Variations was written in 1937 when he was only 24, in 1938 he completed Les Illuminations (to poems of Arthur Rimbaud), and in 1943 he wrote the Serenade to texts by five authors.It's convenient to have all three on one well-filled (72:45) disk. There are only 12 players in the Scottish Ensemble which is directed by violinist Clio Gould; string sonorities of course would have been richer with more players, but what is heard here is perfectly balanced and the superb surround recording, which puts the ensemble in front, reveals every detail of the playing. The light expressive voice of tenor Toby Spence is ideal for the two song cycles, and he has been well-balanced with the orchestra. Martin Owen, principal horn of the Royal Philharmonic, is outstanding in Serenade, and an appropriate effect is achieved in the final song where the horn, supposed to be in the distance, sounds like it is.


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