On This Day… October 15

Today we look at a piece that did a lot to introduce the magnificent instrument of the orchestra to young people. It also ended up being one of his most popular works. Benjamin Britten’s <em>The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra</em>, premiered on this day in 1946.<!–more–>

Originally written as accompanying music for a BBC documentary <em>Instruments of the Orchestra</em>, it was actually premiered on this day by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946 (the documentary used the London Symphony Orchestra, and was premiered on the 29th of November, 1946). Britten started composing this work in mid-December, 1945, and continued writing up to midnight, New Years Eve, 1945.

The piece itself consists of a theme (from Purcell’s <em>Abdelazar</em>) and variations, with each variation introducing a new instrument, and a final fugue in which all the instruments are put together. The instruments are introduced by family – winds, strings, brass and percussion. The fugue is based on an original theme, and once every instrument has entered, the brass are used to return Purcell’s original motive.

There are two different versions, one with narration and one without. The narration was written by Britten’s friend Eric Crozier, and designed to be spoken by the conductor or a separate narrator.

Today we have a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.

Did you like the performance? Do you prefer this, or other popular children’s pieces such as Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, or Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf? Let me know in the comments, or write a post on your own blog, linking back to this post, and I’ll add a link below.

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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