While Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony, written when the composer was 20, based on themes he supposedly penned when he was ten, is fairly commonly known, that Sibelius, Janácek, and Bartók also wrote works for string orchestra is less well-known. Like Britten, Janácek's Suite for string orchestra and Sibelius' Two Impromptus for string orchestra were composed early in their output. Janácek's Suite sounds far removed from his mature, developed voice, appearing to have more in common with similar German or even Russian compositions than Czech. Bartók is the only composer represented on this Bayer Records SACD who composed for string orchestra later in his career, completing his Divertimento in 1939. Even so, this clever but unusual oddity in his output would not easily be identified as being from the master of Hungarian and Romanian folk music. Performing this set of intriguing works for string orchestra is the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Hilbronn under Ruben Gazarian. The orchestra lives up to its reputation as a highly polished, well-rehearsed ensemble that delivers technically solid performances. Perhaps, though, there can be such a thing as too much polish, too much precision. All four of the works heard on this disc are played very much the same, with little discernible differentiation between each composer's respective styles. This is somewhat exacerbated by Bayer's recorded sound quality, which is very soft around the edges and homogenized, robbing the 22-member group from its ability to deliver crisp, sharp articulation to contrast with the much more prevalent legato sound heard throughout.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Divertimento für Streichorchester, Sz 113|
|Suite für Streichorchester|
|Impromtu für Streichorchester (nach Op. 5)|
|Simple Symphony, Op. 4|