Aldeburgh Strings

Benjamin Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings

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The four Benjamin Britten pieces offered here were recorded on three different occasions at the Snape Maltings concert hall in Britain's Suffolk region, but Linn's engineers have no trouble in welding the performances together into a sonic whole. And what an environment it is: deep, spacious, and rich. The complex's resident youth orchestra, the Aldeburgh Strings under Markus Däunert, moves confidently into the space with extraordinary performances, aided by top-notch soloists. The centerpiece, the Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings, Op. 31, has plenty of competition in the marketplace, but few recordings satisfy as much as this one, with deliberate, but intense, readings by tenor Allan Clayton and Richard Watkins on French horn weaving a hypnotic spell. If you must sample only one track, let it be the magnificently elegiac setting of Tennyson's Nocturne (track 7). The opening part of the program is very near equally good, with only the vigorous opening Young Apollo, Op. 16, departing from the overall mood. The orchestra shines in the rarely hard Prelude and Fugue, Op. 29, and that work makes a good pair with the Lachrymae (track 2), Britten's exegesis upon Dowland, beautifully realized by viola soloist Máte Szucs.

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