You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.
I recently had the great fortune of seeing Opera Australia's production of 'Peter Grimes" at the Sydney Opera House as part of our annual subsription series. Of all the operas I have seen live thus far, (Lucia, Flute, Aidia, Cav/Pag, Pearl Fishers, Capulets, Streetcar, Butterfly), Peter Grimes left the greatest impression. I was captivated from start to finish. A heart wrenching story and Britten's evocative score have left thier mark. Britten was clearly a genius and I look forward to discovering more of his music and opera.
A fantastic (and meaningful) staging of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream capturing the composer at his exotic best. Those who haven't heard a note of Britten's opera will immediately fall under his spell after seeing this.
I have to chime in here. Did anyone mention Britten's Phaedra? It's an absolutely phenomenal micro-opera. 20 minutes long, if that, the motives he employs are astounding: the rocking drums with string harmonics representing Phaedra's madness, the low roiling strings representing Phaedra in the process of dying after she poisoned herself, and at the very end the string harmonics representing Phaedra's soul leaving her body just after death. An utterly captivating work from first note to last.
Beyond this, Peter Grimes is probably my favorite opera and his War Requiem is a towering work. I've listened to each beginning-to-end in single sittings more than once.
I've recently bought the Naxos cd of Britten's Violin Concerto & Cello Symphony. These are significant, but neglected, works of the C20th - so they are worth getting to know if you like music of the period.
The Violin Concerto seems to owe somewhat of a debt to Berg's concerto, though it is quite tonal. This will never be a very popular work, owing to the lack of showy pyrotechnics & the rather quiet finale. The whole work seems to reflect the repressive political atmosphere of Europe in the 1930's, especially how the percussion seems to dominate the first movement in a rather sinister way.
Like the above concerto, the Cello Symphony also ends with a passacaglia. This work was written in the 1960's, and dedicated to Rostropovich. Even though it's called a symphony, it's more like a concerto, and very gratifying for the soloist (there's also a cadenza). It's a work that was partly inspired by Prokofiev's own Symphony-Concerto for cello, but there are some avant-garde influences present also, & in all, it's pure Britten.
I think his work for amateurs such as the opera ' Noye's Fludde' (which I am in the process of rehearsing as conductor) are his best. He shows such a talent for using all the resources available and the small degree of skill of a child performer. The score calls for mugs to be hung on a string creating a rough scale... and it work amazingly.
I feel like I must have a highly untrained ear when I try to listen to Britten's Cello Symphony. It's just so... heavy going. There are plenty of serialist and even avant-garde works from other composers that I have an easier time deriving pleasure from than the Cello Symphony.
On the other hand, I am very fond of the vocal music I've heard from him. That being Peter Grimes, bits and pieces of Billy Budd and the War Requiem.
I've listened only to Peter Grimes and few other pieces, so i'd like to know what are his most important works. Thanks in advance.
Peter Grimes is probably his most famous work apart from the War Requiem. The Cello Symphony is also pretty famous, and the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
And of course I must put in a plug for the first of his Church Parables, Curlew River. It's one of his most fascinating works, even though nobody ever notices it.
His second most famous opera after Peter Grimes is probably Billy Budd. If you're looking for opera, other Britten ones I enjoy are Midsummer Night's Dream, The Turn of the Screw, and Death in Venice (in that order).
Besides pieces already mentioned, other famous Britten works include the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings and the Sinfonia da Requiem. Frequently performed choral works include Rejoice in the Lamb and A Ceremony of Carols, which is a Christmas favorite. He also wrote a lot of songs for tenor and piano (mostly for Peter Pears; there are some great videos on youtube of the two of them performing together). His best-known song cycles are probably the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo and Winter Words.
And the violin concerto is seldom performed, but I think it's wonderful.
I quite like his Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra as well. The piece made it into the top 100 keyboard concerti thread recently as voted by (some of the) members of this forum.
Last edited by tdc; May-07-2011 at 06:52.
Thanks everybody. I notice that nobody has mentioned his Nocturnal for guitar, that is considered one of masterpieces for the instrument. A piece that frankly i don't like very much.
Meaghan, is John Foulds in your avatar?
I believe that's Gustav Mahler.