Listening to Britten – Frühlingsnacht


(c) Ben Hogwood

Frühlingsnacht – arrangement of Schumann’s song, Op.39 no.12, for voice and orchestra (June 1942, Britten aged 28)

Text Joseph Eichendorff
Dedication not known
Duration 1’30”

Background and Critical Reception

Another arrangement of Britten’s for voice and small orchestra, on the back of his version of Schubert’s Die forelle – only using more woodwind this time.

Schumann remained one of Britten’s favourite composers throughout his life, and with Pears he recorded Dichterliebe for Decca, as well as tackling the daunting Scenes from Goethe’s Faust in 1972.

Thoughts

There is much more of an orchestral presence here than in the previous Schubert setting – so much so that Britten’s nudging with strings and woodwind takes it closer to Mahler in appearance, especially when the strings surge half way through.

Typically for Britten, though, there is still plenty of room left for the singer to make themselves known!

Recordings used

Neil Mackie (tenor), Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Steuart Bedford (EMI)

Mackie projects very well above the orchestra, who under Bedford’s direction could almost be undertaking a brief excerpt of Mahler’s Symphony no.4

Spotify

The arrangement is not available on Spotify, but a peerless version of the original, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Alfred Brendel in partnership, can be heard here.

Also written in 1942: Kodály – Missa Brevis

Next up: Cradle Song for Eleanor

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