Britten Voice and Piano: Lectures on the Vocal Music of Benjamin Britten

Britten Voice and Piano: Lectures on the Vocal Music of Benjamin Britten

Mixed media product Guildhall Research Studies

By (author) Graham Johnson, Series edited by George Odam

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  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Limited
  • Format: Mixed media product | 280 pages
  • Dimensions: 188mm x 244mm x 16mm | 839g
  • Publication date: 1 September 2003
  • Publication City/Country: Aldershot
  • ISBN 10: 0754638723
  • ISBN 13: 9780754638728
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Illustrations note: Includes 35 b&w illustrations, 1 music example and 2 CD recordings
  • Sales rank: 492,169

Product description

This collection of eight 'lectures' by internationally acclaimed pianist, Graham Johnson, is based on a series of concert talks given at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as part of the Benjamin Britten festival in 2001. The focus of the book is on Britten's songs, starting with his earliest compositions in the genre. Graham Johnson suggests that the nature of Britten's creativity is especially apparent in his setting of poetry, that he becomes the poet's alter-ego. A chapter on Britten's settings of Auden and Eliot explores the particular influences these writers brought to bear at opposite poles of the composer's life. The inspiration of fellow musicians is also discussed, with a chapter devoted to Britten's time in Russia and his friendship with the Rostropovitch family. Closer to home, the book places in context Britten's folksong settings, illustrating how he subverted the English folksong tradition by refusing to accept previous definitions of what constituted national loyalty. Drawing on letters and diaries, and featuring a number of previously unpublished photographs, this book illuminates aspects of Britten's songs from the personal perspective of the pianist who worked closely with Peter Pears after Benjamin Britten was unable to perform through illness. Johnson worked with Pears on learning the role of Aschenbach in 'Death in Venice' and was official pianist for the first master class given by Peter Pears at Snape in 1972.

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Author information

Graham Johnson, edited by George Odam

Review quote

'... a collection of expanded lectures from that fabulously erudite accompanist Graham Johnson. Anyone who has heard Johnson play or talk, or who has read the biblically encyclopedic liner-notes to his recordings, will appreciate the wisdom, insight and practical experience that lives in these essays... Nobody has set the English language so effectively; and no commentator I can think of has so sure a grasp of what that means. So between them, Britten and Johnson make a formidable, though post-mortem, partnership. If you read only one book about music in the coming months, let it be this.' The Daily Telegraph '... a survey from an artist so steeped in Britten's music is of tremendous value...Students and anyone interested in Britten will find this book stimulating. The writing and presentation is of the highest standard while being totally amenable to all.' BBC Music Magazine 'This is a book full of the energy and the passion of the music...the real excellence of this book comes from the in-depth analysis of the songs themselves - I loved the minute descriptions of passages in the songs; how they sound, what certain musical effects Britten is trying to convey, how he links his music to his text, etc.' The Singer 'Britten scholars and enthusiasts will be extremely grateful to Johnson, GSAMD, Ashgate and indeed to George Odam... An invaluable further addition to the Britten library then. This is by no means a series of annotated comments on one song and then the next and then the next and so on. The chapters are pleasurably diverse and swing with relaxed mastery and without disruption from commentary [...] to biography, from observation to advocacy.' MusicWeb '... rewarding lectures...' The Times Literary Supplement 'It is a study long overdue. And we are so fortunate to have such a volume come from the brilliant Graham Johnson, heir of the great Gerald Moore and protege of Britten and Pears... The depth and breadth of Graham Johnson's writing is tremendous... I recommend this book highly to the serious study of Britten's music.' The Delian

Table of contents

Contents: Introduction; Lecture 1, The Young Britten; Lecture 2. Britten Abroad: Italy, Poland and France; Lecture 3, The British Folksong Settings; Lecture 4, A Miscellany of Folksongs; Lecture 5, Britten the Elizabethan and Britten the Baroque; Lecture 6, Beginnings (Auden) and Ends (Eliot); Lecture 7, Britten and Russia; Lecture 8, Britten and the English Landscape; Index.