Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Episodes

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0120061204

To mark the 30th anniversary of Britten's death, Donald Macleod is joined by Philip Reed to discuss Britten's precocious early career, including the remarkable music produced in his first job for the Film Unit of the General Post Office.

A Hymn to the Virgin

Finzi Singers

Paul Spicer (director)

Night Mail - end sequence

Nash Ensemble

Nigel Hawthorne (narrator)

Lionel Friend (conductor)

AMDG

Polyphony

Stephen Layton (conductor)

The Sword in the Stone - concert suite

Bunyan's Farewell: Litany (Paul Bunyan)

Voice of Paul Bunyan....Kenneth Cranham

Fido....Lillian Watson

Moppet....Pamela Helen Stephen

Poppet....Leah-Marian Jones

Tiny....Susan Gritton

Hel Helson....Jeremy White

Inkslinger....Kurt Streit

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Richard Hickox (conductor).

Kenneth Cranham (voice of Paul Bunyan)

0120101115

Donald Macleod presents music from early in Britten's career.

Donald Macleod reveals some of the wealth of music English composer Benjamin Britten wrote during his remarkably successful career in the light of two enduring influences - his life partner, the tenor Peter Pears and his beloved native county of Suffolk.

The BBC helped advance Britten's career by broadcasting two chamber pieces he had composed while still a student at the Royal College of Music.

He was soon writing soundtracks for the GPO Film Unit as well as incidental music for the theatre, TV and radio.

In programme 1, Donald introduces music from those early years including one of Britten's best known soundtracks for the GPO - 'Night Mail', and two works written during his wartime years in America - the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, written for Pears, and his first opera, based on the story of the mythological lumberjack, Paul Bunyan

01Frank And Henry2017013020120123

Few composers have cast such a long shadow over a nation's musical consciousness as Benjamin Britten. Born in 1913 in the seaside town of Lowestoft in Suffolk, Britten was the first of his generation to attain international recognition; while at home his music breathed new life into the cultural fabric of post-war Britain. An accomplished pianist and conductor, he re-established "English" opera with the overwhelming success of "Peter Grimes", first heard in 1945. Together with his partner in life and music, the tenor Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The level of recognition Britten achieved is all the more remarkable because in 1948 he was still only 35!

Across the week Donald Macleod explores these formative years. It's a rich seam of music to mine, with works including Les Illuminations, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Sinfonia da Requiem. The week concludes with excerpts from Peter Pears's acclaimed recording of Peter Grimes and the triumphal conclusion of Britten's Spring Symphony, premiered in 1949 by Pears and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier.

Donald Macleod begins his survey with three enduring influences on Britten: his musically inclined mother, his first significant composition teacher, Frank Bridge, whom he met when he was barely in his teens, and the 17th-century English composer Henry Purcell, to whom he paid tribute in The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

Dawn (Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes)

Flanders Symphony Orchestra

Jan Latham-Koenig, conductor

Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge, Op 10 (excerpt)

Camerata Nordica

Terje Tønnesen, conductor

Quatre Chansons Françaises

Felicity Lott, soprano

English Chamber Orchestra

Steuart Bedford, conductor

Purcell, arr Britten

Chacony for Strings in G minor

Chamber Orchestra of Europe

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op 34

London Symphony Orchestra

Benjamin Britten, conductor.

Donald Macleod focuses on three enduring influences on Britten.

Donald Macleod presents music from early in Britten's career.

Donald Macleod reveals some of the wealth of music English composer Benjamin Britten wrote during his remarkably successful career in the light of two enduring influences - his life partner, the tenor Peter Pears and his beloved native county of Suffolk.

The BBC helped advance Britten's career by broadcasting two chamber pieces he had composed while still a student at the Royal College of Music. He was soon writing soundtracks for the GPO Film Unit as well as incidental music for the theatre, TV and radio. In programme 1, Donald introduces music from those early years including one of Britten's best known soundtracks for the GPO - 'Night Mail', and two works written during his wartime years in America - the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, written for Pears, and his first opera, based on the story of the mythological lumberjack, Paul Bunyan

0220061205

John Bridcut, author of the acclaimed recent book Britten's Children, joins Donald Macleod to discuss the composer's relationships with adolescent boys and how those influenced the music he wrote.

Hymn to St Cecilia

Finzi Singers

Paul Spicer (director)

Four Sea Interludes (Peter Grimes)

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Richard Hickox (conductor)

A Ceremony of Carols

Winchester College Quiristers

Sioned Williams (harp)

Christopher Tolley (conductor).

0220101116

Donald Macleod presents part of Britten's cantata St Nicholas, plus two of his operas.

The first ever Aldeburgh Festival took place in June 1948.

Donald Macleod introduces part of Britten's cantata St Nicholas, premiered on the opening night, plus extracts from two operas, both set in Suffolk - the dark tale of Peter Grimes, set in a fishing village based on Aldeburgh and the comedy Albert Herring, about a socially inept young man destined to be crowned May King.

02Young And Stupid2017013120120124

Few composers have cast such a long shadow over a nation's musical consciousness as Benjamin Britten. Born in 1913 in the seaside town of Lowestoft in Suffolk, Britten was the first of his generation to attain international recognition; while at home his music breathed new life into the cultural fabric of post-war Britain. An accomplished pianist and conductor, he re-established "English" opera with the overwhelming success of "Peter Grimes", first heard in 1945. Together with his partner in life and music, the tenor Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The level of recognition Britten achieved is all the more remarkable because in 1948 he was still only 35!

Across the week Donald Macleod explores these formative years. It's a rich seam of music to mine, with works including Les Illuminations, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Sinfonia da Requiem. The week concludes with excerpts from Peter Pears's acclaimed recording of Peter Grimes and the triumphal conclusion of Britten's Spring Symphony, premiered in 1949 by Pears and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier.

In part two, Donald Macleod charts Britten's first steps as a professional composer, keen to make a name for himself after graduating from the Royal College of Music.

Night Mail (end sequence, excerpt)

Simon Russell Beale, narrator

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

Martyn Brabbins, conductor

Our Hunting Fathers, Op 8 (Epilogue and Funeral March)

Ian Bostridge, tenor

Britten Sinfonia

Daniel Harding, conductor

Les Illuminations

Karina Gauvin, soprano

Les Violons du Roy

Jean-Marie Zeitouni, conductor

Piano Concerto in D major, Op 13 (first movement)

Steven Osborne, piano

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Ilan Volkov, conductor

Tell Me the Truth about Love

Della Jones, mezzo-soprano

Steuart Bedford, piano.

Donald Macleod charts Britten's first steps as a professional composer.

Donald Macleod presents part of Britten's cantata St Nicholas, plus two of his operas.

The first ever Aldeburgh Festival took place in June 1948. Donald Macleod introduces part of Britten's cantata St Nicholas, premiered on the opening night, plus extracts from two operas, both set in Suffolk - the dark tale of Peter Grimes, set in a fishing village based on Aldeburgh and the comedy Albert Herring, about a socially inept young man destined to be crowned May King.

0320061206

Donald Macleod is joined again by John Bridcut to discuss how Britten's relationships with adolescent boys influenced the music he wrote, including his absorbing version of Henry James's darkly mysterious short story The Turn of the Screw.

Albert Herring (Act II excerpts)

Yvette Bonner (Emmie)

Tmim Bowling (Cis)

Matthew Long (Harry)

Northern Sinfonia

Steuart Bedford (conductor)

Five Flower Songs, Op 47

Polyphony

Stephen Layton (conductor)

Billy Budd (Act 1, Scene 3)

Billy....Peter Glossop

Donald....David Bowman

Red Whiskers....Gregory Dempsey

Ambrosian Opera Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra

Benjamin Britten (conductor)

Choral Dances (Gloriana)

Finzi Singers

Paul Spicer (director)

The Turn of the Screw (Scene 8, At night)

Miles....Julian Leang

Quint....Ian Bostridge

Miss Jessel....Vivian Tierney

Flora....Caroline Wise

Mrs Grose....Jane Henschel

Governess....Joan Rodgers

Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Daniel Harding (conductor).

032010111720120125

Donald Macleod introduces Britten's Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac.

By 1952, when the Aldeburgh Festival was in its 5th year, Britten was nearing forty.

By then, he and Pears were very much part of the fabric of the community there.

Donald Macleod introduces Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac, which was premiered at the festival that year, extracts from two more operas - the first based on Henry James' ghostly novella Turn of the Screw and the second on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, plus another fairy-tale work - the ballet Prince of the Pagodas, complete with magical evocation of the Balinese gamelan.

By 1952, when the Aldeburgh Festival was in its 5th year, Britten was nearing forty. By then, he and Pears were very much part of the fabric of the community there. Donald Macleod introduces Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac, which was premiered at the festival that year, extracts from two more operas - the first based on Henry James' ghostly novella Turn of the Screw and the second on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, plus another fairy-tale work - the ballet Prince of the Pagodas, complete with magical evocation of the Balinese gamelan.

03Across The Pond20170201

Few composers have cast such a long shadow over a nation's musical consciousness as Benjamin Britten. Born in 1913 in the seaside town of Lowestoft in Suffolk, Britten was the first of his generation to attain international recognition; while at home his music breathed new life into the cultural fabric of post-war Britain. An accomplished pianist and conductor, he re-established "English" opera with the overwhelming success of "Peter Grimes", first heard in 1945. Together with his partner in life and music, the tenor Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The level of recognition Britten achieved is all the more remarkable because in 1948 he was still only 35!

Across the week Donald Macleod explores these formative years. It's a rich seam of music to mine, with works including Les Illuminations, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Sinfonia da Requiem. The week concludes with excerpts from Peter Pears's acclaimed recording of Peter Grimes and the triumphal conclusion of Britten's Spring Symphony, premiered in 1949 by Pears and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier.

Feeling artistically stifled and restless, in 1939 Britten decided to move to America. A few months after he arrived, the Second World War broke out. For Britten, an avowed pacifist, news of the situation back in Britain created a confusing and conflicted period in his life.

String Quartet No 1 in D major, Op 25 (2nd movement)

Takacs Quartet

Violin Concerto, Op 15 (1st movement)

Tasmin Little, violin

BBC Philharmonic

Edward Gardner, conductor

Since She Whom I Loved (The Holy Sonnets of John Donne)

James Gilchrist, tenor

Anna Tilbrook, piano

Sinfonia da Requiem

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Libor Pešek, conductor

A Hymn to St Cecilia

Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Stephen Cleobury, director.

Donald Macleod focuses on Britten's activities during his years in America.

0420061207

Donald Macleod is joined by Mervyn Cooke, the author of the book Britten and the Far East.

After the premiere of The Turn of the Screw in 1954, Britten felt that he had reached the end of a musical trajectory and that other paths beckoned.

Two years later, a visit to Bali provided the stimulus in the form of the island's gamelan music.

Antiphon, Op 56b

Choir of St John's College, Cambridge

Christopher Robinson (conductor)

The Prince of the Pagodas (excerpts)

London Sinfonietta

Oliver Knussen (conductor)

Noye's Fludde (excerpts)

The voice of God....Richard Pasco

Noye....Donald Maxwell

Sem....Alexander Gallifant

Ham....Timothy Lamb

Jaffett....Nicholas Berry

Mrs Sem....Catriona Johnson

Mrs Jaffett....Joanna Brown

Animals and Birds....Schools from Salisbury and Chester

City of London Sinfonia

Richard Hickox (conductor)

Missa Brevis in D, Op 63

Choir of Westminster Cathedral

James O'Donnell (organ)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (excerpts)

Starveling....Neal Davies

Flute....Ian Bostridge

Snug....Stephen Richardson

Bottom....Robert Lloyd

Theseus....Brian Bannatyne Scott

Fairies....David Newman, Claudia Conway, Sara Rey and Matthew Long

Puck....Carl Ferguson

Oberon....Brian Asawa

Tytania....Sylvia McNair

New London Children's Choir

Colin Davies (conductor).

042010111820120126

Donald Macleod introduces the final song from Britten's cycle The Poet's Echo.

In September 1960, Britten had the good fortune to meet the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich who became a close friend and inspiration behind five works for cello, and a song cycle for him and his wife, the singer Galina Vishnevskaya.

In the fifth programme, Donald introduces the final song from the cycle - The Poet's Echo - together with part of the Cello Suite No.2, plus an extract from the intensely moving War Requiem and the second of Britten's church parables, The Burning Fiery Furnace.

In September 1960, Britten had the good fortune to meet the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich who became a close friend and inspiration behind five works for cello, and a song cycle for him and his wife, the singer Galina Vishnevskaya. In the fifth programme, Donald introduces the final song from the cycle - The Poet's Echo - together with part of the Cello Suite No.2, plus an extract from the intensely moving War Requiem and the second of Britten's church parables, The Burning Fiery Furnace.

04For Peter20170202

Few composers have cast such a long shadow over a nation's musical consciousness as Benjamin Britten. Born in 1913 in the seaside town of Lowestoft in Suffolk, Britten was the first of his generation to attain international recognition; while at home his music breathed new life into the cultural fabric of post-war Britain. An accomplished pianist and conductor, he re-established "English" opera with the overwhelming success of "Peter Grimes", first heard in 1945. Together with his partner in life and music, the tenor Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The level of recognition Britten achieved is all the more remarkable because in 1948 he was still only 35!

Across the week Donald Macleod explores these formative years. It's a rich seam of music to mine, with works including Les Illuminations, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Sinfonia da Requiem. The week concludes with excerpts from Peter Pears's acclaimed recording of Peter Grimes and the triumphal conclusion of Britten's Spring Symphony, premiered in 1949 by Pears and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier.

Today Donald Macleod looks at one of Britten's enduring artistic inspirations, the voice of his partner in life, the tenor Peter Pears.

Trad. arr. Britten

The Foggy, Foggy Dew

Peter Pears, tenor

Benjamin Britten, piano

Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo

Ian Bostridge, tenor

Antonio Pappano, piano

String Quartet No 2 in C major, Op 36 (1st movement)

Takacs Quartet

Serenade for tenor, horn and strings

Robert Tear, tenor

Dale Clevenger, horn

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor.

Donald Macleod explores the musical fruits of Britten's long partnership with Peter Pears.

05 LAST20061208

Donald Macleod and Mervyn Cooke discuss how Britten's work displayed an increasing affinity with the music of the Far East towards the end of his life.

Extract from Curlew River, Op 712 ? A Parable for Church Performance.

Peter Pears (Madwoman)

John Shirley-Quirk (Ferryman)

Harold Blackburn (Abbot)

Bryan Drake (Traveller)

Bruce Webb (Voice of the Spirit)

English Opera Group

Benjamin Britten (conductor)

Act ll Scenes 14-17 from Death in Venice, Op 74

Philip Langridge (Aschenbach)

Alan Opie (Hotel Barber and Hotel Manager)

City of London Sinfonia

Richard Hickox (conductor)

Sacred and Profane, Op 91

Polyphony

Stephen Layton (conductor).

05 LAST2010111920120127

Donald Macleod on Britten's late works, including his final opera, Death in Venice.

Britten had struggled with ill health throughout his life.

He put off much needed heart surgery in order to complete his final opera, Death in Venice, premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1973.

In the fifth programme Donald Macleod introduces an extract from that work which features the last major role he would write for his life partner Peter Pears, plus a movement from one of his rare late chamber works, the string quartet no.3, and a complete performance of his dramatic cantata Phaedra, sung by its dedicatee, Janet Baker

Britten had struggled with ill health throughout his life. He put off much needed heart surgery in order to complete his final opera, Death in Venice, premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1973. In the fifth programme Donald Macleod introduces an extract from that work which features the last major role he would write for his life partner Peter Pears, plus a movement from one of his rare late chamber works, the string quartet no.3, and a complete performance of his dramatic cantata Phaedra, sung by its dedicatee, Janet Baker

05 LASTBack Home20170203

Few composers have cast such a long shadow over a nation's musical consciousness as Benjamin Britten. Born in 1913 in the seaside town of Lowestoft in Suffolk, Britten was the first of his generation to attain international recognition; while at home his music breathed new life into the cultural fabric of post-war Britain. An accomplished pianist and conductor, he re-established "English" opera with the overwhelming success of "Peter Grimes", first heard in 1945. Together with his partner in life and music, the tenor Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. The level of recognition Britten achieved is all the more remarkable because in 1948 he was still only 35!

Across the week Donald Macleod explores these formative years. It's a rich seam of music to mine, with works including Les Illuminations, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Sinfonia da Requiem. The week concludes with excerpts from Peter Pears's acclaimed recording of Peter Grimes and the triumphal conclusion of Britten's Spring Symphony, premiered in 1949 by Pears and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier.

Concluding this week's series, Donald Macleod finds Britten's opera Peter Grimes heralding a new dawn in British opera.

Sunday Morning (Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Libor Pešek, conductor

Embroidery Aria (Peter Grimes, Act 3 Sc 1)

Claire Watson, soprano, Ellen Orford

James Pease, bass-baritone, Balstrode

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Benjamin Britten, conductor

Finale (Peter Grimes, Act 3, Sc 2)

James Pease, bass-baritone, Captain Balstrode

Peter Pears, tenor, Peter Grimes

Raymond Nilsson, tenor, Boles

Owen Brannigan, bass, Swallow

Jean Watson, contralto, Auntie

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Occasional Overture, Op 38

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Rattle, conductor

Canticle 1, Op 40

Philip Langridge, tenor

Steuart Bedford, piano

Spring Symphony, Op 44 (Part 4: Finale)

Martyn Hill, tenor,

Alfreda Hodgson, contralto

Elizabeth Gale, soprano

Senior Choirs of the City of London School for Girls and City of London School

London Symphony Orchestra

Richard Hickox, conductor.

Donald Macleod explains how Britten's Peter Grimes heralded a new dawn in British opera.