As the voyage through Britten’s work begins, one of the fascinating aspects of the listening will be trying to discern what, if anything, he draws from other composers. From limited experience thus far, and from the writings of others, it seems Britten’s voice will often be a strikingly individual one – but there are some composers who clearly made a strong impression on his musical life.
With that in mind, and before the Britten marathon itself starts in three weeks or so, it is a good opportunity to take in the music he knew and recorded as a conductor, pianist and concert-goer, bearing all his experiences and observations in mind for the listening ahead – whilst making a few of our own.
Purcell is perhaps the most obvious place to start – but along the way we will take in Britten’s recordings of J.S.Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and then, moving ever forwards, Schumann, Mahler, Berg and Shostakovich. From England, the focus will fall on Elgar, Grainger, Holst, Vaughan Williams and of course Bridge, Britten’s tutor. Discovering Britten the artist and scholar ought therefore to provide the ideal springboard for listening to his own work.
Part one – Henry Purcell – will follow later on today! Then do check back for more over the next three weeks.