Listening to Britten – Oh Why Did E’er My Thoughts Aspire

(c) Ben Hogwood

Oh Why Did E’er My Thoughts Aspire – song for voice and piano (4 January 1930, Britten aged 16)

Dedication not known
Text Colonel Edward Sackville
Language English
Duration 1’30”

Background and Critical Reception

Very little is written about this song, though its specific date would seem to place it right at the close of the Christmas holidays, presumably before the teenage Britten began one of his last terms at Gresham’s.


This song has a relatively easygoing set of contours, but it seems to look backwards rather than forwards, with Schubert again in evidence. It sits firmly in B minor, a sombre utterance in a couple of verses that threatens to try an ending in a different key before subsiding into a quiet close in the ‘home’ tonality.

Recordings used
Benedict Nelson (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano) (Onyx)

Nicely sung, with Martineau giving the accompaniment plenty of space.


Oh Why Did E’er My Thoughts Aspire

Also written in 1930: Ravel – Piano Concerto for the left hand

Next up: A Little Idyll

This entry was posted in English, Listening to Britten, Songs, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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