Listening to Britten – Peace of Britain

Nursery Frieze I 1936 by John Piper 1903-1992
Nursery Frieze II 1936 by John Piper 1903-1992
John Piper: Nursery Frieze I & II, 1936
(c) The Piper Estate

Peace of Britain – Incidental music for flute, clarinet, trumpet, percussion, piano and string quintet (2 violins, viola, cello and double bass) (17 – 19 March 1936, Britten aged 22)

Director Strand Films
Duration 1’30”


Peace of Britain can be heard on the NMC website, as track 39 on the Britten On Film disc. This page and site have a wealth of information on Britten’s film scores.

Background and Critical Reception

The BFI Film & TV Database gives a little information on how Peace of Britain was not initially certified, as the British Board of Film Censors deemed its content to be controversial.

The synopsis on their website goes into further detail on this brief but concentrated piece of propaganda, which Philip Reed discusses in his note for the NMC disc, talking of its ‘arresting visual imagery and skillful editing backed by Britten’s crisp score.


It may be a short utterance but the expansive textures of Britten’s score ensure Peace of Britain makes its mark. With a bigger sound than most of his film music it still manages to use its instruments carefully, cutting from the big opening to a theme given out in unison by muted trumpet and flute.

If I wasn’t told who the composer was I might even think this was a rediscovered movement of a Shostakovich jazz suite, rather than a piece of Britten film music – that is, until the music switches to a grand peroration to finish, now in the composer’s comfortable key for such statements, C major.

Recordings used

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group / Martyn Brabbins (NMC)

As with all of the Britten on Film performances, Brabbins leads an account full of character.


Peace of Britain can be found here, track 39 of the invaluable Britten on Film album from NMC.

Also written in 1936: Khachaturian – Piano Concerto

Next up: Our Hunting Fathers, Op.8

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

1 Response to Listening to Britten – Peace of Britain

  1. Pingback: Working at the Coal Face – Britten on Film and Radio | Good Morning Britten

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