Sinfonia da Requiem 
Spring Symphony 
Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

London Symphony Chorus 
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
London Symphony Orchestra


The disc gets off to a tremendous start with the pounding Ds of the Sinfonia da Requiem’s Lacrymosa leading into the heart wrenching melody. Throughout, the engineers do an amazing job of capturing the wide range of dynamics in all these works.  The unusual instrument here is the alto saxophone whose plangent tone is heart wrenching.

The funeral march is beautifully shaped by Rattle and builds to a tremendous climax. The violence and terror in the Dies Irae are well captured. The harps, who often get lost in recordings of this movement, are wonderfully present.  The appearance of the alto sax, like the angel of death, is disturbingly sleazy. The hard part in this work is how, after all the violence, to bring about the catharsis of the Requiem Aeternam. Rattle manages this perfectly, highlighting the child like simplicity and lullaby nature of the movement.  The radiant D major seems to be a logical conclusion.

The Spring Symphony, like Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, is not a traditional symphony but something between an oratorio and cantata. An assemblage of various poets, some named, some anonymous, it nevertheless is a tremendous score and one of Britten’s greatest achievements   Whereas the Sinfonia begins ferociously the symphony begins very quietly with the chorus begging the sun to shine again. 

Once again, the sound, here pp, is beautifully captured. We can fully believe that Rattle and his supplicants are desperate for the sun to bring its warmth. The prayers work and Spring’s messenger appears in the second movement poetically sung by Allan Clayton.  It is always interesting to hear this music sung by a tenor who does not try to sound like Peter Pears, and Mr Clayton does not.

Sir Peter was of course a Marmite type of singer, I liked his voice, but many did not. Mr Clayton has a wonderful tone and depth of sound throughout his range, and he brings a wonderful drama to the various roles in the work. Elizabeth Watts and Alice Coote, the other soloists, likewise are perfectly suited to their roles.  Their extensive operatic experience has clearly stood them in good stead here.

The boys choir who play such an important part in the work are excellent. They are very precise in intonation and manage some spot on whistling The Driving Boy.  The cow horn solo in the finale is suitably uninhibited.

The LSO musicians are all virtuosos in their own right, so they bring off the difficulties of the Young Person’s Guide, which is really a mini concerto for orchestra, with ease. Rattle drives the performance hard, and if it is perhaps lacking in a sense of fun, the fugue brings the disc to a tremendous conclusion.

Review by Paul RW Jackson