Classical Music

Classical home listening: John Wilson and the Sinfonia of London’s latest; Éliane Radigue | Classical music

A new release from John Wilson and his Sinfonia of London – a well-known ensemble in the 1950s, relaunched in 2018 by Wilson for special projects – has become a red-letter day in the recording calendar. Following an English Music for Strings disc in 2021 (Britten, Bliss, Bridge, Berkeley), the group’s new album, of Vaughan Williams, Howells, Delius and Elgar (Chandos), presents two string masterpieces from earlier in the 20th century: Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro (1901, 1904-5) and Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910, revised 1919). The Concerto for String Orchestra by Herbert Howells, influenced by RVW and Elgar but with a gritty modernist accent, and Delius’s rhapsodic Late Swallows (arr. Fenby), complete the programme.

As ever, the brilliance of the playing makes this essential listening, the precision and attention to detail alive and exhilarating. The entire disc holds the attention, but the last movement of the Elgar, urgent and impassioned, has you on the edge of you seat: a tour de force.

Quatuor Bozzini Eliane Radigue Occam Delta XV

For her ongoing series Occam Delta, the French composer Éliane Radigue (b.1932) has collaborated with various performers, marking her shift, this century, from mainly electronic works to music for acoustic instruments. Occam Delta XV (Actuelle) is dedicated to Quatuor Bozzini, who premiered it in Montreal in 2018. Radigue’s music is about constant flux: sounds that appear unchanging yet shift almost imperceptibly. The business of listening is part meditation, part heightened concentration, or “hyperconsciousness”, as the liner note explains it. Out of long, sustained chords, a whirr of microtones and harmonics eventually become audible. The process offers a powerful antidote to our short-attention-span world, if you can take it. Switch your phone off and spot the difference between two different versions, performed live and played with dedication by the Bozzinis.

A chance to hear Ensemble 360 in chamber concerts ranging from Suk and Brahms to Ravel and Harry Burleigh, from Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster, recorded at last autumn’s Music in the Round. Tuesday to Friday, BBC Radio 3, 1pm/ BBC Sounds.

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