BRITTEN Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings
Founded in 2010, Aldeburgh Strings bring together advanced students for intensive periods of study. Their tutors are leading musicians from international orchestras, like Markus Däunert, a founder member of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and director for this programme, which is derived from projects undertaken for the Britten centenary in 2013. The concentration achieved on the course is evident from the standard of playing here. ‘There is no mobile phone signal at Snape,’ says Däunert, ‘so we can focus on the music.’
In Britten’s buoyant Young Apollo Aldeburgh Strings field a greater weight and range of colour than Rattle’s CBSO, making the work sound more expressive and substantial, and Lorenzo Soulès is a dexterous solo pianist. Angst permeates the string clusters of Lachrymae early on, too (how powerfully the bass notes resound in Snape Maltings’ generous acoustic) and Máté Szűcs, first principal viola of the Berlin Philharmonic, makes an insightful soloist. In this resonant hall the Prelude and Fugue sounds bigger in forces than it really is – almost symphonic in scale, like one of Barshai’s arrangements for chamber orchestra of the Shostakovich string quartets. All are performances to be recommended.
The competition in the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings is more intense. As in his recent recording of the Nocturne, part of Aurora Orchestra’s ‘Insomnia’ programme (Warner, 9/15), Allan Clayton is the epitome of the English tenor, agile in the Ben Jonson setting, floating with an ethereal sense of menace through the Scottish ‘This ae nighte’. The poetry is sung with clarity and perception, the ‘dark, secret love’ in the Blake becoming an inner thought confided to the microphone. What I miss is the consistent depth of tone that would carry with weight and stature in the concert hall. Richard Watkins is commanding as the horn soloist and Aldeburgh Strings are again a vivid presence. At under an hour there was room for more. This disc, though, should build awareness of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme’s work.