Listening to Britten – Reveille


The violinist Toni Brosa

Reveille – concert study for violin with piano accompaniment (9 – 16 March 1937, Britten aged 23)

Dedication Toni Brosa
Duration 4’30”

Background and Critical Reception

Anotonio Brosa was one of Britten’s earliest collaborators, the composer having seen the violinist in action when he was just seventeen. Britten wrote the Suite for violin and piano, Op.6 for him but decided to dedicate this study to him. Brosa first performed it with the pianist Franz Reizenstein a month after completion at the Wigmore Hall.

Britten conceived the piece as a character study, evoking the difficulty Brosa had with early mornings in musical terms. He made it difficult, however, as Thomas Gould confirmed in a previous interview for the blog.

Thoughts

This is a strange piece, but a very descriptive one!

It starts off in a languid mood, seemingly lost in the haze of early morning, with lazy slides down the violin. If it’s Brosa he doesn’t seem to be fully awake yet.

Gradually the piece gets a lot more animated and fractious, as if the violinist is running late and is hurriedly getting himself together, bolting a coffee down before running for the door. At several points the violin sounded to me like a dragonfly buzzing around overhead. Then, after all that flailing about, comes a surprisingly conventional ending with a firm cadence.

Recordings used

Lorraine McAslan (violin), John Blakely (piano) (Continuum)

McAslan has an impressive technique in the only available recorded version of Reveille, responding well to Britten’s technical demands. Blakely is rather in the shadows because of how Britten writes this piece, but the two convey the sleepy opening very well. This recording is the first track of a disc that brings together works for violin and piano by Britten and Bridge.

Spotify

McAslan and Blakely can be heard here

Also written in 1937: Copland – El Salon Mexico

Next up: King Arthur

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2 Responses to Listening to Britten – Reveille

  1. Pingback: Listening to Britten – Violin Concerto, Op.15 | Good Morning Britten

  2. Pingback: Kavakos And Hope Work Wonders On New Recordings | Classical Voice North America

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