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Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)
Divertimento for Chamber Orchestra "Sellinger’s Round" (1953) [19:36]
Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)

Divertimento for Chamber Orchestra (1961-62) [11:35]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

Sinfonietta Op.1 (1932) [14:46]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1976)

Sinfonietta Op.34 (1950) [12:36]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)

Sinfonietta No.1 Op.48 * (1955) [9:53]
English Chamber Orchestra/Norman Del Mar
* London Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. March 1977, Kingsway Hall (Tippett, Rawsthorne, Britten, Berkeley); 6 September 1978, Watford Town Hall (Arnold). ADD
LYRITA SRCD.257 [68:31]

I am not sure that Tippett's Divertimento has ever sounded as bright-eyed and eager. This is the most vibrant-sounding clamorous recording it has had. Norman Del Mar was a magnificent conductor and a long-time collaborator with Lyrita - note his 1965 recording of Bax 6 which was reissued last month [review]. As for Tippett’s music it is here given to uproar, resilience and poetry. You might link the first and third movements with the bustle of Moeran's Sinfonietta. The fourth of the five movements has some typically sprung Tippett cross-rhythms as well as a certain weightiness. The finale likewise demonstrates clamorous rhythmic vitality.

After the gloriously grating cross-cut of Tippett Rawsthorne's slightly vinegary lyrical melancholy makes for a distinctive style change. There's no mistaking the Rawsthorne voice. After a haunted little Lullaby comes a flickering and bustling-busy jig. The whole thing is over in the span of a typical concert overture. It was written for and dedicated to Harry Blech who premiered it with his London Mozart Players.

Then come three sinfoniettas. The Britten is from 1932 and is dedicated to his teacher, Frank Bridge. It's a densely inventive piece which bristles with imaginative strokes. I particularly noted the chilliness as well as the English pastoral edge of the central Variations. The shiveringly Sibelian Tarantella flies along lickety-split with Del Mar driving his orchestra in sprint mode. This is not quite the mature Britten but it is fascinating.

Berkeley's Sinfonietta is from 1950. It is in two movements of which the first is typically springy, lithe and boisterous rather like the Serenade. Only in the combined Lento allegro is the mood more ambivalent and ultimately haunted before a racy flightiness links the listener back to Tippett. This brings the proceedings to an end but not before a final gracious sigh (7.37)

The final work is the Arnold First Sinfonietta - there are three all conveniently recorded on EMI. It is the most approachable of the five works here although Nicholas Braithwaite is by no means the most beguiling advocate of this beguiling music. While Arnold's singing soul is there the results could be even more lissom and even more fetching. The bracing allegro con brio goes with a good swing.

The notes are by Michael Kennedy and Robert Layton.

The English Chamber Orchestra sounds more like a beefy grand orchestra than a chamber ensemble in this full-on recording.

There is a typically English reticence about these divertimentos and sinfoniettas - the only exception being the unbuttoned Arnold. They are fulsomely recorded and given virtuoso performances.

Rob Barnett

Lyrita Catalogue


SRCD.226 Lennox Berkeley Serenade for Strings
SRCD.249 Lennox Berkeley symphonies
SRCD.250 Lennox Berkeley piano cocnertos
SRCD.255 Alan Rawsthorne Symphonic Studies
SRCD.291 Alan Rawsthorne Symphonies 1-3
SRCD.201 Arnold Dances
SRCD.200 Arnold Symphony No. 4




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