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Benjamin Britten: Choral Works & Opera For Children

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Friday Jun 28, 2013
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The compositions of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) represent some of the most renowned musical works of the 20th century. Though spurning the technology of recordings throughout the first half of his life, Britten eventually recognized its importance for bringing awareness to the public of the relevance of music in society, and subsequently made it a priority during the last twenty of his life.

In carrying on Britten’s philosophy, EMI Classics has compiled over six hours of the composer’s material, recorded entirely after his death, and has released it in a new seven disc box-set, "Benjamin Britten: Choral Works & Opera For Children." Featuring major conductors including Simon Rattle, Andre Previn, David Willcocks and Philip Ledger, this collection is a hearty reminder of the scope and passion of Britten the composer and musician.

Beginning with one of his most famous works, a 1983 recording of his "War Requiem," with Rattle leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with soloists Elisabeth Söderström, Robert Tear and Thomas Allen, the material is efficiently distributed throughout the discs. Britten’s statement of those who foster armed conflict is in turn followed by one of the most gorgeous symphonies ever written: his "Spring Symphony," the impressive cohesion of poems from twelve different writers, developed by the composer into a soothing walk in the country for the listener to enjoy.

Both a 1977 recording of the children’s opera, "The Little Sweep" and a 1989 presentation from The Winter Gardens in Bournemouth of "Noye’s Fludde" show Britten’s flair for writing for younger voices without the slightest pandering to their elders. The influence of poet W.H. Auden on Britten’s writing is also well represented here, with "A Shepherd’s Carol," "Ballad of Heroes," and "A.M.D.G. (Ad maiorem Dei gloriam)" the latter with text by Gerard Manley Hopkins, but whose poetry was exposed to the composer by Auden.

This is an expansive opportunity to enjoy the accessible, yet brilliant works of one the 20th century’s most recorded composers.

"Benjamin Britten: Choral Works & Opera for Children"
Various artists
CD and digital formats
EMI Classics

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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