Britten on Film                          | NMC Recordings NMCD112

Britten on Film

£11.35

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Label: NMC Recordings

Cat No: NMCD112

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 12th March 2007

Contents

Works

Benjamin Britten
Coal Face (first recording); Night Mail (first complete recording); The Way to The Sea; Negroes; Peace of Britain; The Tocher (Rossini Suite); Telegrams; The King’s Stamp; Men Behind The Meters; When you’re feeling like expressing your affection

Artists

Simon Russell Beale (narrator)
Mary Carewe (soprano)
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
Choir of King Edwards’ Boys School, Birmingham

Conductor

Martyn Brabbins

Works

Benjamin Britten
Coal Face (first recording); Night Mail (first complete recording); The Way to The Sea; Negroes; Peace of Britain; The Tocher (Rossini Suite); Telegrams; The King’s Stamp; Men Behind The Meters; When you’re feeling like expressing your affection

Artists

Simon Russell Beale (narrator)
Mary Carewe (soprano)
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
Choir of King Edwards’ Boys School, Birmingham

Conductor

Martyn Brabbins

About

The first ever comprehensive collection of music written by Britten, working with WH Auden, for 1930s information films made by the GPO Film Unit and others, this disc features a new performing edition of 'The Way to the Sea' along with a premiere recording of 'Coal Face' and the first recording of the complete music to Night Mail. It contains a range of material and styles from shorter items which use well-known ballads such as the cabaret song 'When you’re feeling like expressing your affection' and 'Around the Village Green'.
'Men behind the Meters' includes an unashamedly slushy setting of the Victorian favourite 'I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls'. The compilation also includes music from the longer films; Night Mail (including the famous Auden poem), The King’s Stamp and The Way to the Sea.
Supported by the Britten Estate, this recording is historically important and features a comprehensive booklet with photographs and film stills.
The scores for this recording were specially reconstructed from manuscript and other sources held at the Britten-Pears Library, by composers Joseph Phibbs and Lloyd Moore under the supervision of Colin Matthews, Executive Producer of NMC and Director of the Britten-Pears Estate.
Ivan Hewett of The Telegraph wrote -
"Composers have always had mixed feelings about getting involved in the film business. On the one hand, there's the promise of a big cheque, which makes a welcome change from the paltry fees they get for the far bigger labour of a symphony or a quartet. On the other, there's the sheer banality of much of the job. It's hard to feel the breath of Apollo when faced with an instruction like "17 seconds fast music to accompany man running down spiral staircase".

And yet, given a composer of genius, even that can produce something intriguing – as is proved by a new CD of scores for documentary films written by Benjamin Britten. They were composed during the mid-1930s for the famous GPO Film Unit, led by one of the great names in documentary filmmaking, John Grierson. The unit's first offer to Britten came in the nick of time, in April 1935.

Philip Reed, the Britten scholar who prepared the scores for the new CD, feels that the experience was invaluable in other ways too. "It taught him how to capture a mood or setting in the shortest possible time," he says. "Also the tiny budget for music meant that Britten was restricted to just a handful of instruments. The experience of conjuring lots of different colours and textures with small resources I think was invaluable in later years when he was writing his chamber operas."

Alongside The King's Stamp are two scores which always come up in any discussion of film music: Night Mail and Coal Face. These incorporated spoken and sung texts by W H Auden, the brilliant, intellectually combative young poet who left his job as a prep school master to join the unit's payroll as scriptwriter. Britten was captivated and over-awed by Auden, while Auden was struck by Britten's "extraordinary musical sensitivity in relation to the English language. Here at last was a composer who set the language without undue distortion."

Less well known among their collaborations, but equally ingenious musically, is the score to The Way to the Sea. This is ostensibly a salute to Portsmouth's glorious naval history, but it already has the satirical note that Auden and Britten later struck more insistently in Our Hunting Fathers. Altogether this CD shines a fascinating side-light on a great composer in the making."

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