Arcadia Lost

24/02/2012
Andrew Clements
The Guardian (UK)
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Arcadia Lost is the title of this collection of live recordings, in which Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem sits slightly oddly alongside three of Vaughan Williams' versions of the pastoral. Yet the excellence of all the performances is more than enough to set aside any questions about whether they belong together. Mark Wigglesworth's account of the Britten is a slow burner; he resists the temptation to turn it into a virtuoso showpiece for the fine Sydney orchestra from the start, but steadily ratchets up the intensity through the first movement and scherzo, leaving the finale to resolve its tensions. In The Lark Ascending, too, there's something purposeful rather than just decorative about the scene-painting; Michael Dauth is the solo violinist, while in the strange yet wonderfully sensuous Flos Campi, Roger Benedict plays the ruminating viola solo. The Housman settings of On Wenlock Edge are equally fresh and direct. Having Steve Davislim, an English-speaking tenor who isn't English, as soloist is a tremendous advantage that avoids any hint of preciousness and takes the cycle for what it is, a subtle and beautifully coloured 20th-century masterpiece.