Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra

Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra: Britten & Vaughan Williams

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Product Type: CD

Title: Britten & Vaughan Williams
Label: CD Baby

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) John Elwes remembers his first encounter with Benjamin Britten: "I was a choirboy at Westminster Cathedral in London. The choir was giving a performance of Britten's A Ceremony of Carols and he had been invited to hear us. As Head Chorister, I sang some of the solos. Following my departure from the Cathedral, yet still possessing my "boy's voice," Ben asked me to join him in a concert with Peter Pears at the Wigmore Hall in London, where I sang the role of Isaac in his Canticle II. We immediately recorded the piece. He was keen to record other works of his with me and he chose some songs from a group entitled Friday Afternoons, with myself alone, accompanied by the great man himself. Could one ever forget such an experience?" His mother, who played piano, managed Britten's early musical development and forbid radio or phonograph in the house for fear it would interfere with the family music making. After graduating from London's Royal College of Music in 1933, Britten applied for a grant to study with the modernist composer Alban Berg. Britten admitted that "there was at that time an almost moral prejudice against serial music" of which Berg was a proponent, but he was surprised when his application was refused. Britten pressed his mother, "I am going to study with Berg, aren't I?" She replied, "No, dear, he is not a good influence." In protest, Britten dug into his childhood music sketches, pulled out some waltzes written when he was 10 years old, and jokingly used them as the basis for his first symphony. He called this work Simple Symphony, although most musicians will say it is neither simple nor easy! Perhaps this was Britten's way of jabbing sarcastically at the conservative influences around him. Despite the silly (mocking?) titles of the movements, the Simple Symphony is a work "of considerable stature and a good example of Britten's ability to invest the commonplace with new freshness and spontaneity. This is engaging music in every sense, and deeper than perhaps Britten himself admitted" (Michael Kennedy, Britten, 1981). The Serenade, op. 31 for Tenor, Horn and String Orchestra was written in March 1943 and commemorates Britten's friendships with the virtuoso horn player Dennis Brain, the dedicatee Edward Sackville-West, and the great tenor and Britten's life-long companion Peter Pears. The Serenade opens and closes with an evocative horn solo framing a selection of English poems about evening and darkness. "Britten's works, many of them, belong to literature as well as music - they are settings of some of our greatest poetry and treatments of stories, myths and liturgies that define our culture. It is for this reason that Britten is of importance to literary as well as musical history" (John Matthias, The Haunting of Benjamin Britten, 1992). Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) collected, transcribed and preserved the folk music of his native British Isles and incorporated these songs and melodies into his own pieces. He said he was drawn to the beauty of the music, it's anonymous history in the lives of ordinary people, and it's atmosphere of ancient landscapes. Music critic and editor John Fuller Maitland observed that with Vaughan William's style, "one is never quite sure whether one is listening to something very old or very new." The Ten Blake Songs were written for a film about the English poet and painter William Blake (1757-1827), using only oboe and voice. This is music stripped to it's essentials - poetry and melody.

1.1 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: I. Prologue
1.2 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: II. Pastoral
1.3 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: III. Nocturne
1.4 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: IV. Elegy
1.5 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: V. Dirge
1.6 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: VI. Hymn
1.7 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: VII. Sonnet
1.8 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31: VIII. Epilogue
1.9 Simple Symphony, Op. 4: I. Boisterous Bourree
1.10 Simple Symphony, Op. 4: II. Playful Pizzicato
1.11 Simple Symphony, Op. 4: III. Sentimental Saraband
1.12 Simple Symphony, Op. 4: IV. Frolicsome Finale
1.13 Ten Blake Songs: 1. Infant Joy
1.14 Ten Blake Songs: 2. a Poison Tree
1.15 Ten Blake Songs: 3. the Piper
1.16 Ten Blake Songs: 4. London
1.17 Ten Blake Songs: 5. the Lamb
1.18 Ten Blake Songs: 6. the Shepherd
1.19 Ten Blake Songs: 7. Ah! Sun-Flower!
1.20 Ten Blake Songs: 8. Cruelty Has a Human Heart
1.21 Ten Blake Songs: 9. the Divine Image
1.22 Ten Blake Songs: 10. Eternity

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