Britten Sinfonia

FRANK CLIFF Bury St Edmunds Festival event at St Edmundsbury Cathedral


There was a fairly sparse audience for Monday night's concert by the strings of the Britten Sinfonia, directed by John Wilson.

They began with a spirited account of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, which did fair justice both to the work's grandeur and its intricate textures, and produced admirable playing from the solo quartet of principals.

The Elgar preceded the Bury Festival premiere of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's Songs Before Sleep; six settings of nursery rhymes for baritone and strings. Although a major composer in the symphonic field, a distinguishing feature of Sir Richard's career has been his ability to write in practically any field. These magically scored and beautifully characterised settings are a fine example of music that is sophisticated, yet immediately approachable, and Christopher Maltman relished all the subtleties of the text.

One of Bennett's abiding passions is jazz, with which the evening ended.

In fact, apart from some excellent jazz playing by Bennett on piano, Andy Young on trombone and Luke Annersley on sax, these soupie arrangements for strings sounded like the music before the big picture, of which I find a little goes a long way.

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