Sir Benjamin Britten

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dulcinea
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Sir Benjamin Britten

Post by dulcinea » Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:12 am

WUSF-FM does not take Britten seriously. All it plays of him is the SIMPLE SYMPHONY, the DANCES from GLORIANA and the VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY PURCELL--very lightweight pieces that I would gladly not hear again for five years. What works of him--vocal, choral and instrumental--do you consider more worthy of his great reputation? More than 10 years ago, WUSF-FM did play the SERENADE FOR TENOR, HORN AND STRINGS; I was very impressed.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

MahlerSnob
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Post by MahlerSnob » Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:21 am

Britten's real masterpieces are his operas: Peter Grimmes, Billy Budd, Gloriana (the rest of it), Death in Venice, Curlew River, etc. Those are where he showed his true strengths as a composer.
-Nathan Lofton
Boston, MA

WWBD - What Would Bach Do?

karlhenning
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Post by karlhenning » Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:25 am

Well, but the Sinfonia da requiem is nothing to sneeze at; and the five Canticles are exquisite.
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
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jserraglio
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Post by jserraglio » Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:30 am

--the Cello Symphony and War Requiem.

--The Rape of Lucretia (and Grimes, already mentioned) contain the germ of much which was to follow in opera.

Michael
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Post by Michael » Wed Jun 28, 2006 12:42 pm

The 2nd and 3rd string quartets.
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

PJME
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Post by PJME » Wed Jun 28, 2006 4:48 pm

Phaedra, the French folksong -arrangements, Les illuminations

From the Spring symphony,my favorite poem (W.H.Auden)

"Out on the lawn I lie in bed, Vega conspicuous, overhead
In the windless nights of June
As congregated leaves complete
their day's activity; my feet
point to the rising moon
...
Now north and south and east and west
those I love lie down to rest;
The moon looks on them all,
the healers and the brillant talkers,
The eccentrics and the silent walkers,
the dumpy and the tall

To gravity attentive,she
Can notice nothing here, though we
whom hunger does not move,
From gardens where we feel secure
Look up and with a sigh endure
The tyrannies of love:

And, gentle,do not care to know
Where Poland draws her eastern bow,
What violence is done,
Nor ask what doubtful act allows
Our freedom in this english house,
Our picnics in the sun.

Susan de Visne
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Post by Susan de Visne » Fri Jun 30, 2006 4:36 am

As well as the operas, all the song cycles are great works - not only the Serenade. Try the Michelangelo Sonnets, John Donne Sonnets, Les Illuminations, Nocturne, Winter Words, On this Island. It does help if you like and understand poetry, and for Michelangelo and Illuminations Italian and French poetry. Then there's A Ceremony of Carols, whic everyone likes.

Spring Symphony is terrific, and War Requiem is one of the greatest works of the 20th Century.

Susan de Visne
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Post by Susan de Visne » Fri Jun 30, 2006 4:41 am

A quibble maybe - but he was never Sir Benjamin. He refused a knighthood. Six months before his death he was made a Life Peer, and so was officially Lord Britten, though it is said he only accepted this because his beloved nurse said she would never speak to him again if he didn't!

Michael
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Post by Michael » Fri Jun 30, 2006 9:30 am

Yes of course Susan... I knew there was something not quite right about the 'Sir'.
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

davidreece
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Post by davidreece » Fri Jun 30, 2006 4:16 pm

I think Britten's music is genius. I've performed many of his works, but the closest to my heart is the cantata 'St. Nicolas' which I think is an overlooked masterpiece. It has a wonderful libretto by his frequent collaborator, Eric Crozier, and has a most creative orchestration: Strings, piano 4 hands, percussion and organ. There are two excellent recordings and one of historic note. The original Decca release is interesting to hear Pears, for whom it was written (naturally), but the choir by today's standards sounds strange and amateurish. (Probably because they were amateurs). The other two more recent versions on Hyperion and Naxos both have much to offer, especially Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Philip Langridge respectively.

I am learning the song cycle Winter Words and find it as beautiful and any of the other of his vocal works.

Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Fri Jun 30, 2006 5:14 pm

I love the Ceremony of Carols. In college I sang in a concert in which women sang the three parts instead of boys, and it sounded very nice that way.

We had a storm which caused the electricity to fail in the auditorium, so we ended up doing the performance outdoors under esplanades with car headlights (volunteered by a lot of nice people in the audience) as light.

Except for the harp having a bit of trouble staying in tune because of the dampness, it was actually one of those magical performances.

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

RebLem
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Post by RebLem » Fri Jun 30, 2006 9:26 pm

I second just about every suggestion made for further explanation. A few others I would suggest are the Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, the Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, and a number of choral pieces for small ensembles, especially Noye's Fludde. But Golden Vanity, The Burning, Fiery Furnace, Saint Nicolas, and Rejoice in the Lamb are others.

I most firmly suggest all three string quartets, not just the last two, and the Sinfonia da Requiem, and the War Requiem. And don't put down the Young Person's Guide.

By the way, the Dirge movement in the Serenade for tenor, horn, & strings sets to music the same 15th century poem used by Sir Arnold Bax (really was a Sir) in his song Lyke-Wake, written in Feb, 1908 and orchestrated as part of a set of 3 songs in 1934. The other two songs have been lost, however, and it was never published during Bax's lifetime.
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jserraglio
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Post by jserraglio » Fri Jun 30, 2006 10:42 pm

--there's a 'lightweight' masterpiece by Britten-- Albert Herring--virtuous lad crowned May King by village busybodies gets drunk during his cornonation festivities--a great work--delightful on stage--several good recordings--Steuart Bedford's is now on Naxos.

Susan de Visne
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Post by Susan de Visne » Sat Jul 01, 2006 2:10 am

[quote="davidreece"]I think Britten's music is genius. I've performed many of his works, but the closest to my heart is the cantata 'St. Nicolas' which I think is an overlooked masterpiece.

There are two excellent recordings and one of historic note. The original Decca release is interesting to hear Pears, for whom it was written (naturally), but the choir by today's standards sounds strange and amateurish. (Probably because they were amateurs). [/quote]

It was actually written for schoolchildren to sing, the choir of Pears's old school, Lancing, possibly another boys' choir, and a girls' choir, - and the audience of course join in the hymns. Britten liked to involve as many people as possible, and like Noye's Fludde I think this work is better if it doesn't sound too polished, except for the tenor. On Britten's recording he uses small children to sing the Birth of Nicholas (I always prefer this to adult sopranos here), and the Aldeburgh Festival Choir which was very amateur at the time, just local people. The choir was gradually narrowed down over the years until it became much more professional in sound. A lot of offended people though!

I do envy you learning Winter Words - a deep work and one of Britten's own favourites.

PJME
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War Requiem

Post by PJME » Sun Jul 02, 2006 3:26 pm

In Belgium the War Requiem was (and is) quite regularly performed.
I can vividly remember that even schools would take a busload of pupils to a concert....( Remembrance days of the Great War, near Ypres).
The work made a huge impact and made me investigate Britten's work more thoroughly. Like in Ravel's or Debussy's oeuvre there's little that is really mediocre.
I have very fond memories of soprano Heather Harper in the percussion accompanied Sanctus and the wonderfully rocking Lacrymosa ....

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