Scottish Ensemble - Britten - The Daily Telegraph
Les Illuminations was written with a soprano voice in mind, but has been colonised by tenors just as much as the male-voice Serenade. Toby Spence's agile and tonally fresh tenor seems admirably suited to both works, and his intelligence and communicativeness put him on a level with other leading modern-day interpreters such as Philip Langridge (Naxos, Serenade only) and Martyn Hill (Virgin). Martin Owen is his eloquent equal in Serenade. Britten wrote all the works on this disc for the full body of strings in a chamber or symphony orchestra. So, with an ensemble of just 12 players (bolstered to 15 in the Frank Bridge Variations), a few liberties have inevitably had to be taken with Britten's string writing. But the important thing is that it seems not to matter. Indeed, what may be a loss in tonal substance proves a gain in clarity, with plenty of chamber-like transparency to the textures, but no loss of power.