Britten's Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, M. Stern
(released on November 10, 2009)
Reference Recordings RR-120 | 60'46"
In terms of repertory and already existing competition, however, this is less of an easy sell. Recordings of Britten generally have to vie for collectors' interest with versions conducted by the composer himself, as is the case here. Stern leads carefully limned renditions of two of Britten's most moving orchestral scores, the Sinfonia da Requiem and the Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes. The former is a score that is sadly not played all that often, submitted to the government of Japan in response to a call in 1940 for music to commemorate the 2,600th anniversary of the imperial dynasty but rejected by the Japanese because of the perception of the work's pacifist message as world war loomed. A remarkable achievement for a 20-something composer, the work's orchestrational, melodic, and harmonic palette point presciently to what Britten would accomplish in just a few years in Peter Grimes and the luscious, evocative Sea Interludes. Of the least interest is one of Britten's most famous pieces, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, originally composed for a children's educational documentary and recorded here without any form of Eric Crozier's narration. Not a must-have disc but worth a listen.