Five Canticles

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Five Canticles is a series of five musical works by composer Benjamin Britten. The pieces were written at various points in his career, with three of them written as memorials. Instrumentation differs on each piece, and several are based on non-sacred texts. A review in Opera Today notes, "Britten didn't draw upon the Scriptures for the texts of his canticles, which resemble cantatas more than church hymns in scale and structure, but an intense religious spirit pervades them all."[1] Critic Peter Evans notes the works contain a "mood of spiritual elevation intense enough to demand realization in an ambitious musical structure."[2]

Canticles[edit]

Canticle I[edit]

Also titled "My beloved is mine and I am his" and numbered opus 40, this piece was written in 1947 for the memorial concert for Dick Sheppard, former vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The lyrics are from "A Divine Rapture" by Francis Quarles, based on The Song of Solomon in the Bible.[3] It is scored for high voice and piano.

Canticle II[edit]

Also titled "Abraham and Isaac" and numbered opus 51, this piece was written in 1952 for Peter Pears, Kathleen Ferrier and Britten to perform as a fundraiser for the English Opera Group. The text is based on the Abraham and Isaac story as depicted in the Chester Mystery Plays.[4]

Canticle III[edit]

Also titled Canticle III: Still falls the rain and numbered opus 55, this piece was written for voice, horn, and piano in 1954 in memory of Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood. Text is based on the Edith Sitwell poem "The Canticle of the Rose."[5]

Canticle IV[edit]

Also titled "The Journey of the Magi" and numbered opus 86, this piece was written in 1971 for countertenor, tenor and baritone, with text based on the T. S. Eliot poem "The Journey of the Magi."[6]

Canticle V[edit]

Also titled "The Death of Saint Narcissus" and numbered opus 89, this piece was written in 1974 in memory of William Plomer. It was written for performance by Peter Pears and Osian Ellis.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, David (March 8, 2005). BRITTEN: Canticles I–V, The Heart of the Matter. Opera Today
  2. ^ Evans, Peter (1996). The Music of Benjamin Britten, p. 402. Clarendon Press, ISBN 978-0-19-816590-3
  3. ^ Ford, Boris (1996). Benjamin Britten's poets: the poetry he set to music. Carcanet, ISBN 978-1-85754-022-2
  4. ^ Seymour, Claire (2007). The operas of Benjamin Britten: expression and evasion. Boydell Press, ISBN 978-1-84383-314-7
  5. ^ Oliver, Michael (1996). Benjamin Britten. Phaidon, ISBN 978-0-7148-3277-7
  6. ^ Johnson, Graham; Odam, George (2003). Britten, voice, & piano: Lectures on the vocal music of Benjamin Britten. Ashgate, ISBN 978-0-7546-3872-8
  7. ^ Craggs, Stewart R. (2002). Benjamin Britten: a bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-313-29531-7

External links[edit]