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Britten: Paul Bunyan

Royal Opera House Covent Garden, soloists, Hickox (Chandos)

Recorded during the Royal Opera's residency at Sadler's Wells last year, Richard Hickox's reading of Britten's first stage work is as near ideal as one could hope for. Written with the poet WH Auden as an "outsider's view" of America in 1940, the Broadway operetta combines sparkling wit with pithy observation, all of which is superbly captured by the cast. HHHH

Dvorak: Symphony No 8/The Noon Witch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Harnoncourt (Teldec)

The silky-smooth perfection of the Concertgebouw strings and high- precision wind section may not quite have the earthy Slavic flavour which Dvorak's most exuberant symphony calls for, but the sheer beauty of the Dutch orchestra's sound is astounding. Harnoncourt delights in what is, for him, unusual territory. HHHH