Author Topic: Benjamin Britten  (Read 69361 times)

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Offline drogulus

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #40 on: July 16, 2008, 12:50:08 PM »
    That comment about horrid modern music isn't just a joke. It says something about his music, which explores extremes of beauty and ugliness. I find Britten to be a very uncompromising composer, and such single-minded devotion is usually found among avant-gardists. Britten seems to have come upon the idea that there are more expressive opportunities in shattering tonal expectations without leaving tonality behind than there would be by adopting an alternative.

     After my recent immersion in the Cello Symphony and the War Requiem I listened to Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. By comparison it sounds like Elgar with a Broadway sensibility superimposed (it might have been called Belshazzar!). This isn't really a knock on Walton, a composer I admire, but it shows the astonishing way Britten freed himself from tradition without disowning it, as well as the extent that other composers were either unable or unwilling to do so.
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Offline mjwal

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #41 on: August 29, 2008, 01:50:34 AM »
I've never been able to take Belshazzar's Feast quite seriously anyway (I love Walton's 1st symphony and enjoy a few other pieces). The War Requiem, agreed, is on another plane. Various Britten works already mentioned continue to impress me too (as in "make a deep impression on"), one of my favourites not mentioned so far, I believe, is the Nocturne for tenor and ensemble. My first recording was Robert Tear's, on Argo LP, which I still like, then the studio version by Peter & Ben, then their live version on BBC Legends, which I slightly prefer despite the cloudier sound, then the Collins version now on Naxos with Philip Langridge. I had to listen to the latter a few times before I could enjoy it, so different is it from that Pears sound that Tear copied (? - my assumption). He rather shockingly shouts "no more!" in the Wordsworth poem, but it is effective. The climax of the Shakespeare sonnet is rather underplayed, I find; there I must prefer Pears' or Tear's more piercing emotionalism. This last setting of the cycle is the most moving Britten ever did, in my view, only rivalled by the "Elegy" in the Serenade and "Before Life and After" in Winter Words - not to forget the War Requiem's "Strange Meeting". There's a sad but defiant yearning in these settings that puts them with Wolf's Michelangelo settings in my personal pantheon.
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
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Peter Porter

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #42 on: March 07, 2009, 11:50:09 AM »


Here are two of my favourite recordings:
« Last Edit: March 07, 2009, 11:22:14 PM by Mandryka »
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karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #43 on: May 29, 2009, 07:52:54 AM »
How 'bout that War Requiem, eh?

Spiffy page here.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #44 on: May 29, 2009, 08:11:48 AM »
The War Requiem is one of my favorite works, although one I don't listen to that often (too intense). 

I'm seeing it in a few weeks with Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic--part of his big final month as conductor.  Very much looking forward to it, since the last time I heard it (some 4-5 years ago) was unsatisfying: a dedicated, well-meaning chorus and orchestra, but they really weren't able to handle the music.  But I have a hunch Maazel may really respond to this piece.

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karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #45 on: May 29, 2009, 08:14:43 AM »
The War Requiem is one of my favorite works, although one I don't listen to that often (too intense). 

Yes, it isn't the sort of thing to just toss into the changer on a whim.

Speaking of which . . . this weekend, I am taking the vocal score home and am listening to The Turn of the Screw, twice.

snyprrr

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #46 on: May 29, 2009, 11:41:56 PM »
I hear the Lloyd-Webber/Marriner Cello Sym. (w/Walton) on Philips is an unbelieveably great and unique sounding recording?

karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #47 on: May 30, 2009, 03:22:08 AM »
The Cello Symphony is yet another Britten work I've yet to listen to.  Ran into many of those, reading the brief Phaidon bio.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #48 on: May 30, 2009, 06:07:34 AM »
The cello symphony is top-drawer, somewhere between the sinfonia da requiem and violin concerto in mood, if I recall correctly.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #49 on: May 30, 2009, 09:15:42 AM »
Speaking of which . . . this weekend, I am taking the vocal score home and am listening to The Turn of the Screw, twice.

What's the occasion, Karl?  I have still not heard this piece, and have Daniel Harding's recording of it in the big "to listen to" pile.

--Bruce
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Offline springrite

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #50 on: May 30, 2009, 09:20:43 AM »
The Cello Symphony is yet another Britten work I've yet to listen to.  Ran into many of those, reading the brief Phaidon bio.

You should definately get to this work ASAP, right after your finish turning that screw!
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Offline drogulus

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #51 on: May 30, 2009, 09:35:08 AM »

    The Cello Symphony is first rank Britten, and therefore a 20th century masterpiece IMNSHO.:D
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Offline Nick

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #52 on: May 30, 2009, 12:36:22 PM »
What about that Piano Concerto, Op.13? I happen to really like this piece. The one I've got is with Richter on the piano and Britten conducting.

Another work I think that's overlooked is the Prelude and Fugue, Op.29 for orchestra. Great piece of music that!

karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #53 on: May 30, 2009, 12:40:09 PM »
What's the occasion, Karl?  I have still not heard this piece, and have Daniel Harding's recording of it in the big "to listen to" pile.

The occasion, Bruce, is simply that I've checked out a vocal score from the library  8)

karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #54 on: May 30, 2009, 12:40:37 PM »
You should definately get to this work ASAP, right after your finish turning that screw!

There's got to be a box of some sort in my future, Paul . . . .

Offline Brewski

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #55 on: May 30, 2009, 12:43:32 PM »
The occasion, Bruce, is simply that I've checked out a vocal score from the library  8)

Oh...I thought you were perhaps...conducting it!  :D

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #56 on: May 30, 2009, 02:27:23 PM »
Oh...I thought you were perhaps...conducting it!  :D

 :D

Not at this time . . . .

karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #57 on: June 01, 2009, 02:57:56 AM »
I divided the two acts of The Turn of the Screw between two evenings; a little too intense to immerse myself in all at once.

I'd say I enjoyed the opera, only "enjoy" isn't quite the word.  Then, I almost called the piece brilliant, but that's not quite the word, either.  It is a powerful, impressive work;  its powers focused yet more intensely, I think, both by the chamber scoring, and the frequent simplicity of Britten's musical language.

It's a long time since I read James's story;  back when I had read it more recently, I should have thought it impossible for opera.  At that time, I should have been predisposed not to be happy with any stage liberties a librettist might take with the text.  But in the event, I think the libretto and Britten's illumination of it, miraculously faithful to James's intent. "The worst possible construction," and all that.  It's really a frightful story, and the miasmic understatement is part of the fright . . . and the opera overall I find a tour de force.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #58 on: June 01, 2009, 04:47:59 AM »
TotS is rather difficult, indeedie. At least the bleakness of Grimes was accompanied by some wonderful rich Romanticism - TotS is more razor-sharp in its focus and this can be uncomfortable. Not a single impish melody to relieve the pressure.
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karlhenning

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Re: Benjamin Britten
« Reply #59 on: June 01, 2009, 04:53:24 AM »
TotS is rather difficult, indeedie. At least the bleakness of Grimes was accompanied by some wonderful rich Romanticism - TotS is more razor-sharp in its focus and this can be uncomfortable. Not a single impish melody to relieve the pressure.

Well, there's the nursery rhyme that Flora and Miles sing in unison, but that's just part of the eeriness.