The five Canticles constitute 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." Critic Peter Evans notes the works contain a "mood of spiritual elevation intense enough to demand realization in an ambitious musical structure."
Canticle I: "My beloved is mine and I am his", Op. 40. 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. It is scored for high voice and piano.
Canticle II: "Abraham and Isaac". Op. 51, 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.
Canticle III: "Still falls the rain", Op. 55, was written for voice, horn, and piano in 1954 in memory of Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood. Text is based on the 1941 Edith Sitwell poem of the same title.
- Anderson, David (March 8, 2005). BRITTEN: Canticles I–V, The Heart of the Matter. Opera Today
- Evans, Peter (1996). The Music of Benjamin Britten, p. 402. Clarendon Press, ISBN 978-0-19-816590-3
- Ford, Boris (1996). Benjamin Britten's poets: the poetry he set to music. Carcanet, ISBN 978-1-85754-022-2
- Seymour, Claire (2007). The operas of Benjamin Britten: expression and evasion. Boydell Press, ISBN 978-1-84383-314-7
- Johnson, Graham; Odam, George (2003). Britten, voice, & piano: Lectures on the vocal music of Benjamin Britten. Ashgate, ISBN 978-0-7546-3872-8
- Craggs, Stewart R. (2002). Benjamin Britten: a bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-313-29531-7
- Britten: Five Canticles via Hyperion Records