Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Episodes

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COTW-20060120061204

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)

COTW-20060220061205

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).

COTW-20060320061206

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)

Témimé 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).

COTW-20060420061207

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).

COTW-200605 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).

COTW-20100120101115

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

COTW-20100220101116

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.

COTW-2010032010111720120125

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.

COTW-2010042010111820120126

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.

COTW-201005 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