Today is Benjamin Britten’s birthday, and we have just the album to celebrate!
Kansas City Symphony
The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is a symphonic tour-de-force and audio spectacular, featuring all sections of the symphony, separately and together. Based on a famous theme by Henry Purcell, Britten writes in essence his “Concerto for Orchestra,” taking the ensemble apart, then reassembling it in a grand and jubilant finale. Dynamic range is extreme.
Britten was a dedicated pacifist, and the Sinfonia da requiem from 1940 is his musical plea for peace. It begins with stark and dramatic drumbeats that will be a test for even the finest sound systems, and builds to tremendous climaxes. This early work is regarded by many as the finest of all his orchestral scores.
Peter Grimes, Britten’s most popular opera, is heard most often in the orchestral Sea Interludes and Passacaglia, some of his most haunting and atmospheric orchestral music. “Prof.” Johnson’s transparent sonics allow one to “hear into” all these scores as never before.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this new recording is the exceptional performance by Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony. RR has made many fine orchestral recordings, and we feel that this is one of our very best.
This new release was produced by four-time Grammy Award winner David Frost. Frost says he is honored to work with engineer Keith Johnson for the first time, and is full of enthusiasm for the sound quality of the masters.
REVIEWS: “In a brilliant display of orchestral power and poetry from the country’s heartland, Michael Stern leads the Kansas City Symphony in an all-Britten programme that speaks eloquently . . . As always with this great audiophile label, the skill and commitment of Reference’s recording team need to be accorded special recognition. In either stereo or HDCD, the sound is better than being in the hall: rich in detail, gold in colour and equal to any volume.” –Laurence Vittes, Gramophone
“Britten’s Orchestra…is not only deeply satisfying on a musical level, but will also, I predict, become an instant “demo” disc classic. Great music and great sound — now that’s my kind of “audiophile” recording.” –Wayne Garcia, The Absolute Sound
“A new release from [RR] brings us Benjamin Britten’s best-known orchestral works in disciplined readings, dazzlingly recorded in HDCD sound… These are strong performances, and they sound great. What more do you need to know?” –Phillip Scott, Fanfare
“You immediately sense that this will be a musical and sonic treat… The opening of the Sinfonia da requiem is truly cataclysmic, with a powerful drumbeat that no other recording remotely approaches… This becomes the preferred recorded performance of the Sinfonia… Get this fine collection to complete a very basic survey of Brittten’s full orchestral music.” –Arthur Lintgen, Fanfare
“Time after time as I went through this disc I was struck by [Stern’s] fresh and interesting takes on this familiar music, and by his ability to clarify orchestral texture and draw exciting, committed playing from the Kansans. The orchestra is solid, with exceptional brass, expressive winds and precise, vigorous work from all the string sections.” –Wayne Donnelly, EnjoyTheMusic.com
“The (Guide) is a delight, a voyage of discovery through the resources marshalled by a modern symphony orchestra. . . The Kansas City Symphony…is pretty much flawless in its execution of music which depends so much on the beauty of the instruments… The sound is of great help as well… more than once the music and the sound gave me major goose bumps… Perhaps you’ll have the epiphany I did, and if you do, it can change your life.” –Gerard Rejskind, Ultra High Fidelity (Canada)
Track Listing: 1 The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra; 2–4 Sinfonia da requiem: 2 Lacrymosa, 3 Dies irae, 4 Requiem aeternam; 5–9 Peter Grimes: Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia: 5 Dawn, 6 Sunday Morning, 7 Moonlight, 8 Passacaglia, 9 Storm.