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Britten • Poulenc • Prokofiev: Sinfoniettas

Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Dima Slobodeniouk (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Britten • Poulenc • Prokofiev
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Dima Slobodeniouk
BIS BIS-2601 (CD/SACD)   62:42 mins


The idea that a Sinfonietta is a somewhat lightweight version of the more emotionally complex Symphony is contradicted in at least two of the works featured here. Britten’s Sinfonietta Op. 1, performed here in the later chamber orchestra version of 1936, is scored for modest forces and is relatively compact in structure; yet it’s a dark and turbulent work, displaying the precociously gifted young composer’s infatuation with the expressionist style of the Second Viennese School. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra under former principal music director Dima Slobodeniouk delivers a compelling performance with some particularly stunning string playing in the rhythmically propulsive finale.

Poulenc’s Sinfonietta, composed to celebrate the Tenth anniversary of BBC Radio’s Third Programme in 1947, boasts a veneer of breeziness and insouciance entirely apposite to the genre. Yet a vein of melancholy is never far from the surface, and the sudden shifts of mood and tempo throughout each of its four movements creates a distinctly unsettling effect. Slobodeniouk and his excellent orchestra makes clear the music’s emotional ambiguity with a performance of rhythmic panache and lyrical warmth.

In contrast, Prokofiev’s early five-movement Sinfonietta is  comparatively straightforward, displaying the composer at his most genial and playful. Hearing this brilliantly characterised performance, backed up by an admirably clear recording that allows us to hear all of Prokofiev’s intricate textural interplay, it’s hard to understand why such music isn’t far better known.


Erik Levi