A typically classy offering from this crack ensemble

Sinfonia of London: Bacewicz, Enescu, Ysaÿe

The Strad Issue: May 2024

Description: A typically classy offering from this crack ensemble

Musicians: Sinfonia of London/John Wilson

Works: Bacewicz: Concerto for String Orchestra. Enescu: Octet (arr.string orch). Ysaÿe: Harmonies du soir op.31

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHSA5325

This latest release for Chandos is yet another routine one for the Sinfonia of London under John Wilson. For this we can only be grateful, since the routine is seemingly to present exciting repertoire in fervent performances, captured in brilliant sound.

Enescu’s astonishingly assured Octet, written (like Mendelssohn’s) while he was still a teenager, benefits here from being upscaled, maintaining a chamber-like ensemble but gaining in momentum and coherence, of which the composer would surely have approved. Its cyclic themes circle in shifting hues, and Wilson takes the Extrêmement vite marking at the close of the second movement at face value – to thrilling effect. The expansive slow (third) movement avoids sagging, thanks to a gently supportive pulse.

Bacewicz’s Concerto for String Orchestra is a blazing piece combining modernism and neo-Classicism and benefits from the dynamism and vitality of these players. Another rarity, Ysaÿe’s Harmonies du soir, receives a lush performance that revels in the work’s headily perfumed counterpoint. With material of such density and playing of such intensity, this is a release maybe best enjoyed in courses rather than consumed in one sitting, but it’s certainly one to be savoured.