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There is more, of course — fabulous choral music, chamber music, and vocal works of an intensity and humanity to rank with his great hero Schubert, and his great public statement of pacifist conviction, the War Requiem.

Britten and Modernism

As a child in the s, he wrote for, and accompanied, his mother, a gifted amateur singer; and for over 30 years he composed for the voice of his life partner, the tenor Peter Pears — , with whom he formed one of the most celebrated and influential musical partnerships of the last century. They retain a significant position in the song repertoire, quite the equal of any of the great lieder composers of the 19th century, of whose repertoire Pears and Britten were leading exponents.


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Tit for Tat Tit for Tat , five settings of poems by Walter de la Mare, was composed between and , and revised during the summer of In his prefatory note, Britten explained that:. In the latter piece John Bridcut notes Britten quoting a piece by his teacher, John Ireland — the piano piece Ragamuffin. He also notes the pieces are portraits rather than dedications.

Benjamin Britten - In Their Own Words: 20th Century Composers

A Charm of Lullabies , Op. In December he composed A Charm of Lullabies for the mezzo-soprano Nancy Evans, who, in the late s, was a member of his inner circle and a leading member of the English Opera Group. The work brings together an anthology of diverse texts unified by the themes of night and sleep. While a sequence of lullabies might easily have led to a somewhat monotonous atmosphere, Britten avoids this trap by varying throughout the types of cradlesongs on offer. In July , while in the United States, Britten received a four-hundred dollar commission from an American patroness, Mrs.

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, to whom Frank Bridge had made an introduction. The first performance was given in Los Angeles in September by the Coolidge Quartet, and as a result Britten received the Library of Congress Medal for services to chamber music. Further contrasting passages in the last movement include the scherzo-like rapidly running counterpoint of its opening, sharp, punctuated chords and the strong unison theme from the two violins and viola.

As a performer he went on a recital tour of the recently liberated German concentration camps with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, including two performances in July at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In addition, Britten was charged with writing two pieces for the concerts commemorating the th anniversary of the death of Purcell: a song cycle, The Holy Sonnets of John Donne , Op. Britten said that his experience at the concentration camps influenced the composition of the Op.

Contemporary classical music

One already hears the influence of Purcell at the very opening of the first movement of the quartet. As the two violins and cello play the introductory theme, the viola plays a drone on an open C along with an E a tenth above that.

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The opening gesture of a rising tenth and analogously its inversion as a third is an important structural component of the movement. Along with being in sonata form, the first movement also uses theme-and-variation technique, a particular compositional device that Britten was very fond of.

The use of variation technique in a sonata form movement foreshadows what is to come in the third movement of the quartet. The movement comes to a grand climax when the different themes of the opening are played simultaneously by the upper three voices over an arpeggiated figure in the cello, and the movement ends in a peaceful wash of C-major harmony to match the mood of where it began. The second movement is a brilliant scherzo that makes reference to the musical language of Dmitri Shostakovich, a composer whom Britten greatly admired and who would later become his close friend.

The movement is thematically linked to the first through the use of the arpeggiated figure in the strings.

New Directions in 20th Century Classical Music

Purcell wrote a well-known Chacony in G minor that Britten must have been familiar with when he composed this quartet: he arranged the piece for modern string orchestra in The chaconne was a commonly used instrumental form in the Baroque, is usually in a triple-meter, and involves a set of variations on the opening statement,usually featuring a similar harmonic profile throughout the variations. The coda following fourth section is, according to James.

Sections of many old cathedrals express subtly different variations on architectural styles due to the fact that it took such a long time to build them. As the listener proceeds through the different variations of the Chacony one is struck by the myriad ways Britten transforms the theme, and then at the end one turns around in the cathedral at the point where he started and looks back to take in the magnificence of the entire structure and how all the individual variations combine to create an aesthetic and spiritual experience like no other.

He completed them in August of , a few weeks after returning from Germany, where he and Yehudi Menuhin had toured at the end of July.

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There were two small exceptions: while composing his opera Billy Budd , Britten wrote Lachrymae for viola and piano in , and Six Studies after Ovid for solo oboe in Britten composed Lachrymae for the violist William Primrose, who — along with the composer — gave the first performance at the Aldeburgh Festival on June 20, While in no way sacrificing the abundance of musical invention and imagery found in the earlier song-cycles, the textures of Winter Words are generally more sparse and economical resulting in text projected with particular clarity.

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Britten's musical language

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Seller Inventory P Philip Rupprecht. Publisher: Cambridge University Press , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title Blending insights from linguistic and social theories of speech, ritual and narrative with music-analytic and historical criticism, Britten's Musical Language offers interesting perspectives on the composer's fusion of verbal and musical utterance in opera and song.