Dutilleux – Le Loup
Following the success of English Music for Strings, Sinfonia of London turns its attention to the music of Henri Dutilleux. His ballet Le Loup was composed as a commission for Roland Petit’s dance company and premiered in Paris in March 1953. Rarely recorded – this is the first recording by a non-French orchestra – the work unfolds in three tableaux and tells a convoluted tale of a bridegroom who jilts his bride (to run away with a gypsy) by persuading her that he has been changed into a wolf. Over time she discovers that the wolf is real, but her feelings turn from terror to love and when the alarmed villagers hunt the wolf, she defends him and dies at his side.
The album is completed by three world premier recordings of new orchestrations (by Kenneth Hesketh) of wind solos written for the Paris Conservatoire in the 1940s. Both the Sarabande et Cortege and Sonate pour hautbois are virtuosic tours de force for their soloists, as is the Sonatine pour flute, which displays the lyricism, agility, and sparkling incisive qualities of the flue in what became Dutilleux’s most-performed work.
English Music for Strings
English Music for Strings, featuring music by Benjamin Britten, Frank Bridge, Sir Lennox Berkeley and Sir Arthur Bliss, is the fourth recording from Sinfonia of London with John Wilson, out now on Chandos Records. The release pays homage to Sir John Barbirolli’s revered 1963 disc, English String Music.
The disc has already received high praise – “Once again John Wilson draws the most glorious sound from his hand-picked orchestra” (Gramophone). “Astonishingly good … bold, confident and extrovert, this is thrilling.” (The Arts Desk).
During the 1930s, Bliss, Britten, and Berkeley all contributed major works to the repertoire for string orchestra, following in the footsteps of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. They are joined on this album by Frank Bridge, whose Lament was composed during the First World War.
Bliss composed Music for Strings after he had completed the film score for Korda’s Things to Come, driven by his desire to compose a piece of ‘pure music’, expressing his own ideas rather than those of others. Commissioned in May 1937 by Boyd Neel for the Salzburg Festival that summer, Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge was composed at great speed, and helped to establish the young composer’s international reputation. Dedicated to his teacher, Frank Bridge, the theme is taken from the second of Bridge’s Three Idylls for string quartet.
Lennox Berkeley composed his Serenade for Strings while at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, where he was living with Britten in 1938/39. By the time of its completion, the nation was at war and the music seems to reflect the composer’s anxious mood as the world faced an uncertain future.
Respighi – Roman Trilogy
*NUMBER 1 ALBUM: UK Specialist Classical charts*
Following widespread critical acclaim for their first two recordings, including a BBC Music Magazine Award 2020, John Wilson and Sinfonia of London turn their artistry to Respighi’s Roman Trilogy for their third release.
With its dynamic score calling for a vast array of instruments, including every imaginable piece of percussion plus four-handed piano, organ, mandolin and even a recorded nightingale, Respighi’s outstandingly evocative Roman Trilogy – Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals – is one of the most lavish and exuberant works in the repertoire, all captured on this disc in gleaming Chandos sound.
Escales – French Orchestral Works
The latest recording from Sinfonia of London explores the unique sound world of French orchestral music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The programme juxtaposes well-known favourites, such as Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Massenet’s Méditation from Thaïs with pieces far more rarely heard, for example Duruflé’s Trois Danses and Saint-Saëns’ Le Rouet d’Omphale.
Evoking the ‘exoticism’ of Spain or North Africa, as was the fashion in French music of this era, all these works share the intricate, detailed orchestration that defines the Impressionist style.
Korngold – Symphony in F sharp
The disc which marked the relaunch of Sinfonia of London in 2018 features three works by Korngold. Born in Brünn, Austria-Hungary, and as a pianist and composer Korngold was a child prodigy. Both Mahler and Strauss were impressed by the young musician, and recommended he study with Zemlinsky rather than attending music conservatory. In 1934 Korngold emigrated with his family to the USA, where he went on to revolutionise the sound of Hollywood, composing scores for films such as The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
While he is still most famous as a film composer, over the last twenty years his reputation as a concert composer has been completely re-evaluated. His only Symphony, composed between 1947 and 1952, was dedicated to the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But the premiere in Vienna 1954 was under-rehearsed and not a success, and the work remained neglected until Rudolph Kempe came across a set of score and parts in Munich and resurrected it.
Theme and Variations and Straussiana were both commissioned by the Association of American School Orchestras, but Korngold makes no concessions to youth in his writing. Straussiana also reflects his lifelong love of the music of Johan Strauss II.