Listening to Britten – Fanfare, ‘The Eagle Has Two Heads’

Picture from Amazon

The Eagle Has Two Heads – Fanfare for 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, euphonium, E flat bass and percussion (cymbal, side drum) (pre 4 September 1946, Britten aged 32)

Dedication not known
Duration 1’20”

Background and Critical Reception

Britten and Ronald Duncan were almost inseparable creatively during 1946, and this snippet comes from incidental music Britten wrote for Duncan’s play translation of Cocteau’s play L’Aigle à deux têtes.

It is one of the few recorded Britten works not to make it on to Decca’s complete works edition, which is curious given the only recording resides on the same label.


There are all too few Britten works for brass ensemble, which is a shame, as he frequently demonstrated his command of their sonority within the orchestra.

This fanfare is a curious lollipop, its main theme pointing towards Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and with a few cursory snare drum rolls it sets a scene. It’s just a shame we don’t know what came after it in Britten’s score! Maybe one day…

Recordings used

Philip Jones Brass Ensemble (Decca)

Crisp and clear, with a sense of occasion and a touch of humour.


The Fanfare can be heard here, as performed by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble.

Also written in 1946: Martinů – Toccata e Due Canzoni

Next up: Occasional Overture, Op.38

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