Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

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Rach3
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Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by Rach3 » Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:55 am

Requiems are not my cup of tea, but I am trying to listen through the Britten "War Requiem" given at this year's Proms, thought you may be interested:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m00009n6

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:31 am

All I've ever heard was the first recording based on the first (reportedly disastrous) performance at Coventry Cathedral. I can't think of any reason to re-visit it.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:09 pm

I've heard this work live and also its 'disastrous' Coventry premiere performance which I thought was fabulous. After a half century it holds up well, as does Bernstein's Mass.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by John F » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:57 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:31 am
All I've ever heard was the first recording based on the first (reportedly disastrous) performance at Coventry Cathedral. I can't think of any reason to re-visit it.
One reason: it's a masterpiece. When I first heard it, in Britten's own recording, I was happy to know that such music could still be composed in my lifetime.
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 07, 2018 4:39 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:09 pm
I've heard this work live and also its 'disastrous' Coventry premiere performance which I thought was fabulous. After a half century it holds up well, as does Bernstein's Mass.
Well, the recording is not disastrous. Unless you were actually at Coventry when it premiered I assume that is what you are referring to. I'm just going on the basis of what I once read about the actual live performance.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:15 pm

What I heard and was referring to was a recording of the actual live performance of the premiere in Coventry Cathedral, not the justifiably famous Britten-led Decca recording premiere.

In my view 'disastrous' the Coventry performance emphatically was not, and with music I am inclined to favor what I actually hear over what I read.

I agree with John Francis. The War Requiem is a masterwork of the first order. I've heard it live with the Clevelanders and also in the Britten Decca and Masur-NYP Teldec commercial recordings and look forward to revisiting it.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:54 pm

I'm afraid I have a bit of a blind spot about Britten, and I know for a fact that among knowledgeable musicians I am not the only one to feel that way. Not everybody loves everything that became famous, you know. Vous avez seul la clef à cette parade.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Fri Sep 07, 2018 6:13 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:54 pm
I'm afraid I have a bit of a blind spot about Britten, and I know for a fact that among knowledgeable musicians I am not the only one to feel that way. Not everybody loves everything that became famous, you know. Vous avez seul la clef à cette parade.
"Knowledgeable musician" I am not, but neither am I dazzled by Britten's fame, as opposed to his genius. I have seen and heard his very contrasting-in-tone chamber operas The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring performed live, neither of which are particularly famous, and I was held in thrall by both.

Oops, I also saw and heard live A Midsummer Night's Dream, another of his masterpieces. There's Elgar and then there's Britten atop the heap of a slew of notable British composers of the past century.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by barney » Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:04 am

Always ready to thrust my oar in where it is neither needed nor wanted, I add my voice to the majority. I think Britten is a genius, from Peter Grimes (which I saw in Paris in 1981 with Jon Vickers) to the Serenade for Tenor and Horn or the Donne sonnets.
I'm happy to accept that he hasn't "clicked" for you (yet), but he never will if you give up.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by John F » Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:30 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:54 pm
I'm afraid I have a bit of a blind spot about Britten, and I know for a fact that among knowledgeable musicians I am not the only one to feel that way. Not everybody loves everything that became famous, you know. Vous avez seul la clef à cette parade.
Some knowledgeable musicians have had a blind spot about Brahms too, such as Tchaikovsky, and some have had a blind spot about Tchaikovsky too, such as Boulez. Glenn Gould admitted or boasted that his blind spot extended from the end of the Baroque to Schoenberg. They're certainly entitled to their taste and you to yours - you don't have to defend your preferences. But tastes change over time, and I'd regret it - for your sake, not Britten's, he doesn't care - if you denied yourself some extraordinary musical experiences because of earlier reactions to some of his music.

If I had to use just one piece to "sell" Britten, it would be the serenade for tenor, horn and strings. What an extraordinary range of expression within such a short time, from the bright cheerfulness of "Queen and Huntress" to the darkness of "The Sick Rose" and sheer terror of "The Lyke-Wake Dirge," Britten had it all.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSRVgxLuhaM

The words are in the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenade_ ... nd_Strings.
John Francis

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 7:05 am

John F wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:30 am
jbuck919 wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:54 pm

If I had to use just one piece to "sell" Britten, it would be the serenade for tenor, horn and strings. What an extraordinary range of expression within such a short time, from the bright cheerfulness of "Queen and Huntress" to the darkness of "The Sick Rose" and sheer terror of "The Lyke-Wake Dirge," Britten had it all.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSRVgxLuhaM

The words are in the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenade_ ... nd_Strings.
I'm not responsible for idiots, no matter what their individual accomplishment may be. Tchaikovsky and Brahms once met at a dinner and could scarcely bear each other's company. (Of course, this was not unusual for Brahms, but you get my point.) And John, the Serenade is actually one of the few pieces by Britten that I like and have know since I was a teenager.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 08, 2018 7:21 am

barney wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:04 am
from Peter Grimes (which I saw in Paris in 1981 with Jon Vickers) to the Serenade for Tenor and Horn
Barney some nice guy in this forum gave me a laser disk of Vickers doing Grimes-superb--Vickers was just mesmerizing even if Britten didn't care for it! Then the Met did it in a pretty lousy production :( OTOH their Billy Budd which I love is wonderful! I'm listening to this Serenade for Tenor right now-never heard of it-very nice! Regards, Len :)

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by Rach3 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:26 am

For me, other perhaps under-appreciated Britten works would be his Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, and Cello Symphony, although I prefer the first two. Just finished my hearing of the " War Requiem ". As I noted, I am not much of choral fan, but there certainly were nice moments , and I agree was worth hearing such an accessible contemporary work even if I dont return anytime soon. For me, " Peter Grimes " and " Billy Budd" make a better impression in the house than on recordings only, my experiences limited to TV broadcasts of each, suspect same maybe true of the "Requiem " ?

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:49 am

Rach3 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:26 am
For me, other perhaps under-appreciated Britten works would be his Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, and Cello Symphony, although I prefer the first two. Just finished my hearing of the " War Requiem ". As I noted, I am not much of choral fan, but there certainly were nice moments , and I agree was worth hearing such an accessible contemporary work even if I dont return anytime soon. For me, " Peter Grimes " and " Billy Budd" make a better impression in the house than on recordings only, my experiences limited to TV broadcasts of each, suspect same maybe true of the "Requiem " ?
Nobody ever wrote a bad violin concerto.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by Lance » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:49 am

Britten's music is not one of my personal loves. I do listen, have many recordings, and have enjoyed Britten more as a conductor and/or pianist in other composer's compositions. I certainly admit to his genius. His music, I'm sure, will continue to live. The fact that I am so steeped in music from the Baroque- thru the Romantic period may be much to blame for my personal tastes. If I was ever alive before, surely it would have been in the Classical or Romantic periods in music.
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by maestrob » Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:14 pm

Britten's War Requiem is not my favorite choral music, but it is indeed a masterpiece. It grew on me slowly, though, so I understand the reluctance of some here to hear it again. But Britten is, IMHO, a first-rank composer, from his Violin and Piano Concerti (the latter recorded by the composer conducting Sviatoslav Richter), to his Simple Symphony (for strings) and his great operas (Billy Budd, Peter Grimes, and Death in Venice) and his great ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas. These are all favorite works (I saw Death in Venice at the MET premiere in 1975). The 3 Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes are recorded separately quite often (They were recorded by Bernstein live in his final concert.).

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:49 am
Nobody ever wrote a bad violin concerto.
Yes, but a bad player can belie a good concerto.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzZAjIx_yac


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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by Rach3 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:49 am
Nobody ever wrote a bad violin concerto.

Tend to agree with you , but “ bad” of course is in the ear of the listener . For me , these can be charitably referred to as “ interesting “ ; perhaps ? :

Giacinto Scelsi, “Anahit “ for Violin and Orchestra ( 1965 ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVCPJrA7vXQ

Uuno Klami, Violin Concerto, Op.32 :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr8CSAS ... Oh&index=9

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by barney » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:55 pm

lennygoran wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 7:21 am
barney wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:04 am
from Peter Grimes (which I saw in Paris in 1981 with Jon Vickers) to the Serenade for Tenor and Horn
Barney some nice guy in this forum gave me a laser disk of Vickers doing Grimes-superb--Vickers was just mesmerizing even if Britten didn't care for it! Then the Met did it in a pretty lousy production :( OTOH their Billy Budd which I love is wonderful! I'm listening to this Serenade for Tenor right now-never heard of it-very nice! Regards, Len :)
Good on you, Len. It's marvellous how open you are to listen to new things. I look forward to that day, but so far work intervenes too much.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by barney » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:58 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:26 am
For me, other perhaps under-appreciated Britten works would be his Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, and Cello Symphony, although I prefer the first two. Just finished my hearing of the " War Requiem ". As I noted, I am not much of choral fan, but there certainly were nice moments , and I agree was worth hearing such an accessible contemporary work even if I dont return anytime soon. For me, " Peter Grimes " and " Billy Budd" make a better impression in the house than on recordings only, my experiences limited to TV broadcasts of each, suspect same maybe true of the "Requiem " ?
That's a fair point, about "in the house", though I fancy it is true of most stage works. Wagner opened up for me decades ago when I actually attended performances. Until then I had found him too long and bombastic. Then I realised the fault was in my listening - the bombastic moments were rarer and more effective than I had thought.
Re the War Requiem, I have to take issue with "nice moments". To me, it is a work of great profundity, texts as well as music, and using Wilfred Owen was inspired.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 6:30 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:46 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:49 am
Nobody ever wrote a bad violin concerto.

Tend to agree with you , but “ bad” of course is in the ear of the listener . For me , these can be charitably referred to as “ interesting “ ; perhaps ? :

Giacinto Scelsi, “Anahit “ for Violin and Orchestra ( 1965 ) :
Well, what do you expect from a composer whose name means "high"? Here is a far better modernistic concerto.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 08, 2018 6:50 pm

barney wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:55 pm
but so far work intervenes too much.
Barney work-what's work? Regards, Len [retired for 18 years!] :lol:

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:06 am

I think the part that disappointed me most, and I've read that it also disappointed Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who originated it and was a POW during WW II (though I have also heard the opposite), was the crucial settings of the poems by Wilfred Owen. English simply came too late to art song for even the most talented composers to produce anything convincing, and most English poetry of any sort is generally an inferior vehicle for musical setting in the first place. I find the settings arbitrary and rather obvious. I don't expect much agreement with this, but that is my view. Also, movements from the Dies Irae are horridly mimicking of Verdi.

Speaking of the Dies Irae, although there are several great settings of it, it is an anomaly in the Requiem Mass. In the first place, uniquely, we actually know who wrote it (Thomas of Celano). In the second, it is a sequence, all but a handful of which were abolished by the Council of Trent, which should have abolished all of them. Third, it is simply a lousy poem, like the other surviving sequences written in the most elementary Latin though it is by far the inferior in terms of content unless one wants to contemplate a judgment that leads most people to Hell. Finally, there are Renaissance Requiems that include it, but most don't. Presumably, the composers let the faux Gregorian setting stand while they concentrated on the other parts.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by John F » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:16 am

jbuck919 wrote:English simply came too late to art song for even the most talented composers to produce anything convincing, and most English poetry of any sort is generally an inferior vehicle for musical setting in the first place.
And yet you've said that you like the serenade for tenor, horn and strings, a song cycle of English poetry of several sorts. No, that generalization won't hold. Throughout his career Britten was the most prolific and greatest composer of song cycles in English, from John Donne to W.H. Auden, including the "Songs and Proverbs of William Blake" composed for Fischer-Dieskau. Anyway, if German poetry is not "an inferior vehicle for musical setting" then certainly neither is English.

As for what you say was Fischer-Dieskau's low opinion of the Owen settings that were his part in the War Requiem, I can't find any such opinion in his memoirs or Kenneth Whitton's biography. Can you tell me where you found it? DFD told Whitton that the experience of singing the War Requiem was deeply moving ("tief erschutternd") and writes, "The first performance created an atmosphere of such intensity that by the end I was completely undone; I did not know where to hide my face." Before composing the Requiem Britten had asked him if he would sing in it, and in effect composed "Bugles Sang," "Be Slowly Lifted Up," and "After the Blast of Lightning" specifically for him.

That the setting of the Latin text owes something to Verdi's Requiem was acknowledged by Britten himself. So what? Mozart's Requiem derives far more closely from Michael Haydn's Requiem for Archbishop Sigismondo (1771), not only in the Latin text as used in Salzburg but in musical character and sometimes even the notes, but that doesn't diminish Mozart's Requiem in the slightest, nor does the influence of Verdi's, much less obvious because their styles and the actual music are so different, diminish Britten's. In my opinion anyway.

Compare, for example, the opening of the "Dies irae" in both works. Verdi:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDFFHaz9GsY

Britten, with the battlefield trumpet calls - this is indeed a War Requiem - which are also the call to the Last Judgment, and the hushed, terrified chorus, segueing into Owen's poem "Bugles Sang":


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p3jNMCbaK0
Last edited by John F on Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:46 am

William Bolcom: Songs of Innocence & Experience
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpoTyFeHC4c



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzDefyfPj1w



John Blackwood McEwen: Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity set to Milton
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbrlMtykOfA



Wilfred Owen's poetry:

I have been urged by earnest violins
And drunk their mellow sorrows to the slake
Of all my sorrows and my thirsting sins.
My heart has beaten for a brave drum's sake.
Huge chords have wrought me mighty: I have hurled
Thuds of gods' thunder. And with old winds pondered
Over the curse of this chaotic world,-
With low lost winds that maundered as they wandered.

I have been gay with trivial fifes that laugh;
And songs more sweet than possible things are sweet;
And gongs, and oboes. Yet I guessed not half
Life's symphony till I had made hearts beat,
And touched Love's body into trembling cries,
And blown my love's lips into laughs and sighs.
Wilfred Owen


FJH: The Seasons, set to The Seasons by James Thompson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj9wOlEEoPo



Medieval English Art Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBKFlckrpmU



Handel: Ode for St Cecilia’s Day, setting Dryden: A Song for St. Cecilia's Day
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwN7_R25P6g



Handel: Alexander's Feast, an adaptation of Dryden's ode Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH9c0jXt_s4



Beowulf, selections, performed and sung by Ben Bagby
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROghKY1jmuE



John Corigliano: Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds7EBC6ZrTE

Last edited by jserraglio on Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by John F » Sun Sep 09, 2018 6:44 am

Poem by W. Shakespeare, from "As You Like It"; music by T. Morley ca. 1600.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K2iC4zHyys
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:21 am


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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:51 am

jbuck919 wrote:English simply came too late to art song for even the most talented composers to produce anything convincing, and most English poetry of any sort is generally an inferior vehicle for musical setting in the first place.
The Penguin Book of English Song: Seven Centuries of Poetry from Chaucer to Auden
Ed. by Richard Stokes. 945 pp. (Penguin Classics, 2016).


The Penguin Book of English Song anthologizes the work of 100 English poets who have inspired a host of different composers (some English, some not) to write vocal music. Each of the chapters, arranged chronologically from Chaucer to Auden, opens with a precis of the poet's life, work and, often, approach to music. Richard Stokes's notes and commentaries constantly illuminate the language and themes of the poems and their settings in unexpected ways. An awareness of how Ben Jonson based his famous poem 'Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes' on a Greek original, for example, increases our enjoyment of both the poem and the traditional song; knowledge of Thomas Hardy's relationships with women deepens our appreciation of songs by Ireland, Finzi, Britten and others; Charles Dibdin's 'Tom Bowling', played each year at the Last Night of the Proms, takes on a deeper resonance when we know that it was written after the death of his brother Tom, a sea captain struck by lightning in the Indian Ocean.

Many composers of different nationalities appear, but the book remains quintessentially British, and includes pieces that have an established place in our national consciousness: 'Rule, Britannia' (James Thomson), 'Abide with me' (Henry Francis Lyte), 'Auld lang syne' (Robert Burns), 'Jerusalem' (William Blake), 'Once in royal David's city' (Mrs C. F. Alexander), and even 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star' (Jane Taylor). The poems are printed in their original versification and spelling, enabling us to trace the development of the English language as the book progresses.


Image

Sensibility and English Song: Critical Studies of the Early Twentieth Century
By Stephen Banfield (1989),


This highly acclaimed study of English song is the first detailed account of an unusually fruitful interrelationship between English music and English poetry. The period covered is known as the English Musical Renaissance and runs from the last years of the nineteenth century to the Second World War. Stephen Banfield traces the late flowering of Romantic impulses in solo song during these years, surveying it from critical, analytical and historical angles. He plots the growth of the English stylistic sensibility in song in the decades leading up to the First World War, discusses in detail the plateau it reached between the wars (particularly in the 1920s), and shows how and why it declined as other musical concerns took the field. Poets whose verse was set to music most frequently, including Housman, Hardy, de la Mare and Yeats, are treated at length, as are pre-eminent song composers such as Butterworth, Finzi, Gurney, Ireland, Quilter, Somervell, Stanford, Vaughan Williams and Warlock. In all, more than fifty composers are discussed, and numerous individual songs. In the final section of the book, besides providing an extensive bibliography, Dr Banfield catalogues over 5,000 songs

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:13 pm

Handel doesn't count. He didn't write songs, but rather great choral works, and Dryden's text was intended to be set to music unlike most of the poetry we are considering.

I appreciate the information and will certainly give it and the selections my serious attention over the next day or two. Also, I will try not to nit-pick for the sake of supporting my own point if I find these to be convincing settings. Still, I really was referring to the common practice period followed by the more tonal part of the 20th century. Also, I have already stated that I had an early exposure to the Britten Serenade and developed a favorable opinion of it. But in general, as Dorothy Parker said, there is no there there. To begin with, English-speaking countries didn't have much in the way of important composers when the the German Lied and the French art song were flourishing, and I mean well into the 20th century. Schoenberg and Debussy were two of the greatest song writers of all time. If you can produce something by their approximate contemporary Elgar, whom I admire, then I might modify my thoughts on this.

Everybody knows that Shakespeare wrote what may be the greatest song texts, but they were all set to late Renaissance music and as a musical form can't be compared to Schubert, who did set at least two of them, but in German translation. Also, and I did not invent this analysis, German poetry, while it can be very profound, is generally more simple in structure, lending itself to musical setting. If anyone ever set Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" to music, I would try to listen with an open mind, but in the meantime I'm doubtful how such a thing could be made to work.

There are gray areas, of course. A poem like Goethe's "Ganymede" is not exactly a ballad, and I have read the opinion of some I respect (though it is not my own) that it is not one of Schubert's more successful songs simply because the poem shares some of the challenges (or problems, if you will) I just mentioned about great English poetry.

As for Wilfred Owen, I don't doubt the suitability of many of his texts as lyrics. It is Britten's mediocrity in setting them that miffs me, but as I said, I don't expect much agreement on that.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:31 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:13 pm
Handel doesn't count. He didn't write songs, but rather great choral works, and Dryden's text was intended to be set to music unlike most of the poetry we are considering.
Handel does count. He set English lyric poetry to music. Cf. his adaptations of Milton's l'Allegro and il Penseroso.

And the fact that you concede that a major poet like Dryden wrote two poems specifically to be set to music casts doubt on your own theory that English poetry is, as you say, "generally an inferior vehicle for musical setting".

Emily Dickinson has often been set to art song, notably by Copland: "12 Songs of Emily Dickinson".

So has Blake. Besides William Bolcom's there is a famous setting by Virgil Thomson.

Then there's Poe. Yeats, Whitman and Donne. And Herrick, Burns, Byron, Housman, De la Mare . . . .
Last edited by jserraglio on Tue Sep 11, 2018 2:28 pm, edited 6 times in total.

John F
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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by John F » Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:09 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Everybody knows that Shakespeare wrote what may be the greatest song texts, but they were all set to late Renaissance music and as a musical form can't be compared to Schubert, who did set at least two of them, but in German translation.
Why not? By what criteria is Thomas Morley's "It was a lover and his lass" not comparable with Schubert's "An Sylvia," indeed not essentially the same thing? You can't just say so and leave it at that.

Schubert set German poems to music not because German was a superior poetic language, or because German poetry by Goethe and Schiller was better suited to musical treatment, but because it was his language and that of the audiences who heard his songs in the Schubertiades and the potential customers for whom he had them published. If he had had an English audience, as Haydn did late in life, undoubtedly he would have managed to compose songs to English texts, as Haydn did:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNXX69HJuX4

Note that the words of "She never told her love," from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," are not a song lyric but a speech by Viola, and so were not written to be set to music. Haydn's song has as extended and expressive an introduction as any Schubert song.

The texts of Mozart's songs are a grab-bag of poems he found in magazines and collections, but they include a poem by Goethe, "Das Veilchen." Who would say this is not an art song?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1pN1Kuj5rU

On the other hand, Schubert set many poems whose only virtue was that they were by his friends, such as this by Johann Mayrhofer - one of 47 Mayrhofer poems that Schubert used:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJNm6Sft17A

Not very good, is it? But we don't exclude it from the category of art songs ("Lieder") for that reason, or any reason.

So the art song, in German or any language, did not begin with Schubert, nor did it begin with Haydn and Mozart, though they were the most famous and, of course, the best of the earlier composers of Lieder, nor was English alien to it as the Haydn example and his many other English songs show. How, then, is Morley's Shakespeare song so different as to be excluded?

As for Britten, by the time he began to compose his English-language art songs and song cycles, more than a century of masterpieces in German, French, Russian, and other languages had entered the canon, and he performed many of them publicly. He knew the genre inside out, and when he wrote songs of his own - not just in English, his Rimbaud cycle "Les Illuminations" is in French and the Pushkin cycle "The Poet's Echo" is in Russian - he was not only prolific but expert.

Of course that doesn't mean that you or anybody has to like his art songs, for whatever reason. I don't care for many of them myself. But there's no historical or musicological rationale for this, it's simply a matter of taste. And with that I have no argument.
John Francis

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:46 am

I choose to resign from this thread, for it is clear that it is turning into a pissing contest, and on CMG I will avoid that at all costs.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by maestrob » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:45 am

Image

Just as a friendly reminder...... :wink:

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by barney » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:24 am

lennygoran wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 6:50 pm
barney wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:55 pm
but so far work intervenes too much.
Barney work-what's work? Regards, Len [retired for 18 years!] :lol:
Work is the curse of the drinking classes, Len (as Wilde, I think, put it).

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Re: Britten's "War Requiem" at 2018 Proms

Post by barney » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:31 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:46 am
I choose to resign from this thread, for it is clear that it is turning into a pissing contest, and on CMG I will avoid that at all costs.
Fair enough, of course, but I wasn't seeing it as that. I was enjoying some intelligent debate and interesting examples.

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