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Britten Les Illuminations - The Sunday Telegraph


06 March 2005
The Sunday Telegraph
Michael Kennedy

There is no shortage of splendid recordings of these three youthful Britten classics, but there is always room for performances as good as these. Linn's recording is superfine, catching all the detail of the strings in Les Illuminations as clearly as I have ever heard. The playing of the Scottish Ensemble is superb, especially the solos by its leader and director Clio Gould. In both songs-cycles Toby Spence's diction is faultless and his strong masculine tone exults in the music's virtuosity. His singing of Being Beauteous in the Rimbaud cycle is exceptionally fine.

In the Seranade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, given a thrillingly expansive interpretation, he is joined by the RPO's principal horn, Martin Owen, who brings a Dennis Brain-like poetry to his playing. Spence finds extra romantic depths in the Tennyson Nocturne and sparkles in the Jonson Hymn. His singing of the Blake Elegy is memorable indeed. The Scottish Ensemble relishes the humour, parody and sentiment of the Frank Bridge Variations. Altogether a disc that no Brittten enthusiast should overlook, however many versions of these works they possess.


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