Britten Sinfonia at Lunch

CHRISTOPHER SMITH The Assembly House, Norwich


The Assembly House, Norwich

For this lunchtime recital, the Britten Sinfonia brought a larger ensemble than usual, and the first item was not a classical work, but Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew themes.

With catchy dance rhythms for Joy Farrall's clarinet alternating with episodes that invited the string players to wear their hearts on their sleeves, it was just what was needed for a good start.

Next came Stravinsky's setting of three lyrics by Shakespeare for mezzo soprano, with light but expressive accompaniment.

The soloist was Anna Dennis. With clear words and a steady voice, she brought out the shape of some unusual vocal lines, making light of tricky intervals and making good sense of growing vocal complexities.

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Her show of coolness while echoing a ringing bell or the call of the cuckoo added to the humour of the situation.

She had even scope for Berio's ambitious Folk Songs. She showed particularly fine, even tone throughout her considerable range, and her facial expressions like her body language, were never overstated as she went through a great range of emotions.

She was at her best when touches of irony or malice were called for.

A leaflet with the texts was made available, but unfortunately translations were not provided.

There cannot have been many in the audience able to make even approximate sense of all the passages in Romance languages, let alone the words of the Azerbaijan love song.

Tarik O'Regan's Rai was composed only last year, using North African rhythms, and the work conveyed an enjoyable festive atmosphere.

With its array of percussion adding unusual colour and exotic passions, it was received by the audience with enthusiasm.

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