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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
(1756 - 1791)
Piano Concerto No 12 in A Major [25.01]
Joseph HAYDN
(1732 - 1809)
Symphony No 55 in E Flat Major "Schoolmaster" [21.47]
Symphony No 45 in F Sharp Minor "Farewell" [24.14]
Benjamin Britten (pno)
Aldeburgh festival Orchestra Directed / Conducted Benjamin Britten
Recorded Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh June 1956 (Live concert) ADD MONO
Decca 458 869-2 [71.52]
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Another from the Decca / BBC stable that has mined the Aldeburgh archives for first-time releases on CD. This is the second of the series that has come my way, and where I was less than happy about the first (Mozart Symphonies 39 & 41), this disc is an unlikely charmer. I say unlikely because - well, consider what it is. A recording of a live event in what is more or less a Village Hall with a pick-up group of musicians (admittedly they are probably top London pros). As a counterweight, the pianist is a bit special, but then the whole is recorded in 1956 Mono.

So, why do I like it so much? Probably the main reason is that the enjoyment and zest of the performers spills over into their playing. Than there's some Haydn in there, too - a composer I never find dull and whose music always has some element of enjoyment in it.

Taking the recording first - in no way can it be dressed up to be better then moderate. The balance is excellent, but the piano at times sounds like a forte-piano, the upper strings thin and the bass is often boomy. It is liveable with, though, and a sampling will soon let you know how much it matters - not a lot in my view unless you are excessively fussy. The audience, incidentally, is quiet and well-behaved and clearly enjoyed the concert.

Britten directs from the keyboard in the Mozart concerto. He uses Mozart's own cadenzas (a minor disappointment there when he has written such fine ones himself?) and the performance is a delight with a ravishing slow movement. The delicacy of touch and articulation are a model and the co-ordination between soloist and orchestra is exemplary.

The two Haydn Symphonies that follow the concerto feature some fine individual playing (for instance the un-named cellist in the trio of the Schoolmaster ) and are as enjoyable a pairing of classical works as you are likely to hear. The audience clearly enjoyed the joke at the ending of the Farewell - that's the one where the last one off the stage is supposed to turn of the lights. I wonder what B.B. did? Throughout the spirit and vivacity of the playing was a joy and the Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra (whoever they were) were technically a top-notch ensemble.

The disc comes with an excellent note which list Britten's surprisingly large repertoire of other composer's works that he performed or recorded.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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