Monday, April 16, 2007

Spring Symphony


Now playing ~ Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony on a Decca Jubilee LP, with Britten himself conducting, and with stunning 1961 pre-digital Kingsway Hall sound. Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but premiered by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Eduard van Beinum in Amsterdam in 1949, the Spring Symphony is about the reawakening of the earth and the new life which that brings. It is a hybrid work, part symphony, part oratorio and part song-cycle, and sets texts by several poets for the large forces of soprano, contralto and tenor solos, chorus, boys' choir and orchestra. The texts are boisterous, and include John Clare's inimicable The Driving Boy. Britten's setting of the last lines of the poem are always sung with particular relish:

Cracking his whip in starts of joy
A happy, dirty, driving boy.

My photos were taken yesterday around our house here in Britten's East Anglia, where we are currently basking in temperatures hotter than the Mediterranean. The photos reflect the Spring Symphony's last chorus - Sumer is icumen in. Here is the politically correct modern English version of the opening lines of that bawdy 13th century English round:


Summer has arrived,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
Seeds grow and meadows bloom
And the forest springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!



Now read about Britten's champagne moment
Britten's recording of the Spring Symphony is, of course, also available on a Decca CD. The lower picture is of St Nicholas' Church, Bracon Ash. the header was taken across the road from the church. This part of rural Norfolk has many links with America, see this article. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

1 comment:

sfmike said...

Thanks for this. Among many Britten treasures, this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. The strange foghorn sound in the final moment, by the way, is set at almost exactly the same pitch as the foghorns in San Francisco Bay, and I love listening to that same recording with extra special effects on a foggy day.