British - Now!
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Simple Symphony (1933-34) [16:04]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Antiphon for String Orchestra Op. 85 (1973) [12:25]
Gavin BRYARS (b. 1943)
In Nomine (after Purcell) (1995) [9:55]
Michael NYMAN (b. 1944) When Ingrid Met Capa (2015) [10:23]
Dogma Chamber Orchestra/Mikhail Gurewitsch
rec. Konzerthaus der Abtei Marien-münster, Germany, 2015.

Originally composed for school orchestra, Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony is the best known piece presented on this interesting disc. Although composed in 1934 it is “entirely based” on music he composed between the ages of nine and eleven, mainly from his early piano pieces and songs. Despite this it shows great maturity and imagination. I find the Dogma Chamber Orchestra’s version a little bass-heavy in the Boisterous Bourrée, but then after listening to the illuminating string quartet version of the work by the Emperor Quartet on Bis (BIS-1870 SACD) I now find any of the string orchestra versions that I own a little bass heavy.

My favourite work on this disc is Lennox Berkeley’s Antiphon for String Orchestra. Berkeley is a much under-rated composer who never seemed to get out of the shadow of Britten and Tippett. This is a work which has a sonority that belies its brevity and leaves me wishing it was longer. Composed in 1973 it is a relatively late work and one which should be better known. I know of only one other recording: that by the Manchester Chamber Ensemble under Richard Howarth on Dutton (CDLX 7207). Here the Dogma give a committed and much stronger performance.

Originally composed in 1995 for the viol consort, Fretwork, Gavin Bryars’ In Nomine (after Purcell), which also incorporates themes from Taverner’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, transfers well to the modern string orchestra. This present performance led me to download the Fretwork performance and I must say that here is one time when the heavier modern strings win out. They give the piece grandeur and a greater sense presence which for me makes Dogma’s performance preferable.

The final work on the disc is the most recent, growing as it did out of a documentary film score I am Ingrid Bergman; Michael Nyman composed When Ingrid Met Capa specifically for the Dogma Chamber Orchestra. If you like the music of Nyman well then you will love this. I found myself thinking that I recognised particular themes from his other film scores and his excellent string quartets, only to think again. This is a premier recording and the dedicatees prove wonderful advocates. Their performance is agile and committed and very enjoyable.

The sound of this hybrid SACD is wonderful and crisp allowing every nuance of the string sound to come to the fore. The booklet notes, whilst informative could be a bit more detailed about the pieces themselves. I look forward to further Dogma releases.

Stuart Sillitoe

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