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Poulenc, Prokofiev & Britten: Three Sinfoniettas

Poulenc, Prokofiev & Britten: Three Sinfoniettas

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The term sinfonietta is generally used to describe a work that is smaller in scale or lighter in approach than a standard symphony. It only came into common usage during the first half of the 20th century, which is when the three works included on this disc were in fact composed. Worth noting is also that Sergei Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten wrote their respective sinfoniettas while they were still in their teens – early attempts at multi-movement works for ensemble. Prokofiev revised his Sinfonietta twice, with the 1929 version recorded here, and went on to become one of the great symphonists of his time. Britten chose a different path, with operas forming the most important part of his legacy. Perhaps symptomatically, his Sinfonietta – his Op. 1 – was initially composed for wind quintet and string quintet, a scoring which he later expanded into the version heard on the present recording. Like Britten, Francis Poulenc was not naturally inclined towards large-scale orchestral works, and his Sinfonietta is indeed his only symphonic piece. The most recent of the works on the disc, it is in a neo-classical vein with sparkling dance rhythms as well as lyrical moments. The three works are here performed by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dima Slobodeniouk, a team which has released several highly acclaimed albums on BIS.


Poulenc's Sinfonietta would be the composer's only work in the symphony genre, borrowing, sometimes more obviously than not, from the neo-classical stylings of Stravinsky and nearly quoting Mozart. Poulenc mostly stayed away from larger forms, finding success with his songs, chamber music, and religious works, but this Sinfonietta displays the composer's charm and gift with melodic phrasing.

The Sinfonietta, Op. 5, by Prokofiev (heard here in its final revision from 1929, which the composer assigned as his Op. 48) is a youthful work, even in its revised form. A light and airy neo-classical work that, along with his Classical Symphony, can trace to the mature Prokofiev symphonic writing.

While the sinfoniettas of Poulenc and Prokofiev are light and airy works, the Sinfonietta, Op. 1, by Britten has a more mature sound, even though he was only 18 when it was written. The harmonic structure of the work is influenced by the Second Viennese School through his teacher and dedicatee of the work, Frank Bridge. Originally written for wind quintet and string quintet, Britten later revised it for chamber orchestra, which is what is presented here.

A thoroughly enjoyable hour of lighter music that will be nearly unknown to many listeners but should be accessible to a wide audience. BIS' engineers make good use of the Lahti Symphony's magnificent Sibelius Hall home.

-- (Keith Finke)

All in all this is a splendid release, very enjoyable from beginning to end, offering 3 wonderful pieces not often encountered. It is expertly played, conducted and recorded. Very highly recommended.

-- Classical CD Review

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Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 02, 2022

  • UPC: 7318599926018

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2601

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc, Sergei Prokofiev

  • Conductor: Dima Slobodeniouk

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Lahti Symphony Orchestra