On the face of it this collection should be rather special but in reality
it is a huge disappointment. The van Beinum YPGO was one of the glories of
the 1950s Decca catalogue and it still sounds remarkably good with sweet
strings, excellent balance and superb orchestral execution. There are some
spots of distortion towards the end of the fugue but the biggest drawback is
the choice of some very slow tempi by the conductor. It opens sluggishly and
ends with a tentative low voltage fugue. Even the entry of Purcell's theme
in the closing pages - one of the great moments in orchestral music -
doesn't quite register as it should.
Decca's complete Peter Grimes
is a classic of the gramophone. The
excerpts included here are taken from that set. The big giveaway is in
where the music fades in at the beginning and out at the end.
Concert performances of the Sea Interludes
don't have this problem.
This is most unsatisfactory for repeated hearing but the main drawback is
the quality of the transfer. It sounds like a clumsy restoration from vinyl.
Background noise comes and goes. It is bad enough through speakers but it's
a total write-off if you choose to listen through headphones. This is a poor
representation of what is still a superb recording.
Felix Ayo rescues the day with a fine version of the Simple
. No complaints about the sound quality here either. Maybe the
is more playful in the hands of Britten
conducting the ECO but Ayo runs him close.
The Sinfonia da Requiem
brings the CD to a depressing close. This
wonderful music should be blood-chilling but here it sounds dull and
laboured. This is a remarkable dud considering what a great conductor
Britten was. This must have been one of those days when there were no sparks
flying in the studio. The sound quality also suffers from high background
noise, almost certainly caused by the engineers during the transfer of this
current issue. I would still go for Previn and the LSO in the
This EMI recording captures an orchestra on top form with
a conductor who inspired them to achieve wonders. The recording quality is
superlative. There's simply no contest.
Even at budget price it would be false economy to buy this CD. I'm sorry I
can't be more positive.
Britten discography & review index