Benjamin Britten
Spring Symphony
Sinfonia da Requiem
Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
LSO 00830

Reviewed by Michael Morton-Evans

For some years now the London Symphony Orchestra has been releasing CDs under its own label, the most recent being three of Benjamin Britten’s greatest works, his Spring Symphony, Sinfonia da Requiem and the ever-popular Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Spearheading this production is the orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus, Sir Simon Rattle, who left the post last year. As might be expected under his baton, the result is absolutely first class. The orchestra sounds crisp and bright in the Spring Symphony, and suitably portentous in the Sinfonia, which was originally written in 1939 for the Japanese Government to celebrate the 2600th founding of the Japanese dynasty. The Japanese rejected it, which was just as well given the war that was about to envelop the world.  The Spring Symphony, divided into 15 movements, Britten wanted to be his best composition ever and there are those that argue that it is. It’s one of those symphonies that ranks alongside Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony, scored in this instance for SATB and children’s chorus. It’s interesting to note that originally Britten had intended for the words to be in Latin so that audiences would concentrate on the music, but changed his mind following a walk on a particularly lovely Spring day in East Suffolk where he lived, the Suffolk of Constable and Gainsborough as he put it. As is more common these days, the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra has no narrator, but allows the music to tell the story, beginning with the whole orchestra delivering the central theme and then breaking it down into five variations for the various sections of the orchestra before ending with a glorious fugue bringing everyone back together again.  If you are a fan of Britten’s work, then this is a must in your collection.