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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, October 15

Britten for young persons

Synopsis

Liverpool may be renowned as the birthplace of The Beatles, but it has other claims to fame as well. On today’s date in 1946, for example, one of Benjamin Britten’s best-known orchestral works received its first concert performance in that British city.

“The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” was its title, with “Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell” offered as an explanatory subtitle. Britten himself preferred the “Young Person’s Guide” as its official title and complained whenever the BBC tried call it just “Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell” when announcing the piece on the radio.

Originally conceived as the soundtrack to a British education film on the instruments of the orchestra, Britten’s score can be performed with a spoken narration, or, as is more common, as a purely instrumental work. In fact, the 1946 Liverpool concert premiere actually preceded the first showing of the film by a month or so.

A spectacular display of instrumental sounds and colors, the “Young Person’s Guide” is a kind of mini-concerto for orchestra, showcasing each section of the modern symphony and culminating in a grand fugue on the Purcell theme for the whole orchestra.

Music Played in Today's Program

Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976) The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; André Previn, cond,. Telarc 80460

Additional Information

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