Keys to Britten’s music

In my previous post, I mentioned John Bridcut’s Faber Pocket Guide to Britten as a great way to get into Britten’s music.

The book combines short chapters on various aspects of Britten’s life (not at all a “linear” biography) with a comprehensive reference section to his complete works. This section includes a number of pieces that are marked with a “key-sign” to indicate them as recommended for “those looking for a key to unlock the mysteries of Britten’s music”.

I’ve set up a Spotify playlist featuring these “key moments”. Here is the full list, with links to each piece (or the first track where there is more than one from that piece on the playlist). I’ve also added in some of Bridcut’s comments, and – for those really short of time – marked with an asterisk * some of my personal favourites:

Orchestral works 

Choral works

Church music

Chamber music

Solo instrumental music

Songs

Operas

Folksongs

  • The Stream in the Valley (“although it sounds simple, it is clearly the fruit of the utmost care and resource” – something which could surely be said of most of Britten’s output)

As Bridcut observes, “in truth, there are many more key moments than those marked”. I’d have wanted to add, as a minimum, For I am under the same accusation as my Saviour from Rejoice in the Lamb, and the * Festival Te Deum. The list also omits Curlew River, Noye’s Fludde, Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, the Cello Sonata and Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, just to name a few. But the above playlist should still provide plenty to be getting on with…

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