Benjamin Britten, BRITTEN: Sinfonia da Requiem / Gloriana Suite / Sea Interludes

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
With the powerful Sinfonia da Requiem, the Japanese government’s loss is your gain.

For a composer who so admired Mahler and was friendly with Shostakovich, it's surprising that Benjamin Britten never wrote a symphony. His Symphony for Cello, written for Rostropovich, is more like a concerto but his Sinfonia da Requiem, written as a commission for the Japanese government to commemorate the 2,600th anniversary of the Mikado dynasty, then rejected by them because of its Christian liturgical movement titles, is perhaps the closest thing he wrote to an actual symphony. It's a powerful three-movement work, written as a memorial to his parents, and it can have an overwhelming effect in concert. On record it has been done well, not least in this fine performance by the LSO under Steuart Bedford. The opening "Lacrymosa" is a lament, the central "Dies irae" Britten described as a "Dance of Death" and the closing "Requiem Aeternam" brings the work back to its opening mood of loss. It may not be a true British symphony, but it's well worth getting to know.