After Wilson's slightly disappointing, surprisingly routine, Respighi Roman Trilogy late last year, I was worried this one would be a bit too sleepy, given the repertoire. Happily, I was wrong. This 4th offering from the team of Wilson/Sinfonia of London/Chandos SACD is fully up to the high standards it set with their first outing, the Korngold Symphony (which is simply magnificent - and their second disc, "Escales", is not far behind it).
Wilson has chosen four splendid works for this collection of music for string orchestra, from the very familiar Berkeley Serenade, to the less familiar Bliss Music for Strings. And Wilson's characteristically straight-forward approach, simply allowing the music to speak for itself, pays huge dividends in this music (especially the Britten). And this orchestra plays their hearts out for him. I get the feeling over and over that Wilson doesn't have to do much, other than keeping them all together; this music pretty much plays itself with such a fabulous orchestra at work. They sound as if they love every minute of these recording sessions, every note of these scores, and thus every phrase is infused with inspired musical involvement and passion often missing on record. And I'm sure it helps that this isn't the run-of-the-mill, standard repertoire.
And bravo to Chandos. The slightly over-ripe mid-range heard in their Respighi disc has been cleaned up here. This is fresher, airier, open and alive. The lush string sound is imbued with color, air and spaciousness. It's not unnaturally rich; it's utterly natural and realistic. It transports the listener to the hall in which it was recorded (Church of S. Augustine, Kilburn, London), the lovely acoustic captured superbly. I listened to the stereo SACD layer. I can imagine it being even better in surround sound, for those who have that capability.
This type of repertoire is often recorded by a chamber orchestra, with reduced numbers of strings. It's especially rewarding to hear a full-sized string section in full song. And it's SACD, which cannot be taken for granted anymore - not from this label, or others, such as Pentatone. This disc is a triumph for all involved and a real treasure for music lovers. I eagerly anticipate more from this team.