Benjamin Britten


Music@Menlo, The English Voice: Britten, Walton, and Elgar

The saving grace of "music for children,” I find, is that it is never really composed for children, but about them — or more usually about the part of us which traffics in irony, yet yearns to remain simple and pure. There are few lullabies effective for sleep which would long engage an adult mind, so I know Sasha Cooke will forgive me for saying that her stunningly effective rendition of Britten's Charm of Lullabies last Tuesday at Music at Menlo, outwitted Morpheus.

A London Summer with Huntley Dent

Bernstein’s Mass at the Royal Festival Hall

“My time will come.” This, the most famous quote from Gustav Mahler, wouldn’t seem apt for the music of Leonard Bernstein. His time was now, over and over, whatever decade from the Forties to the Eighties one is talking about. But there were dips in his meteoric trajectory, and Mass, which opened Kennedy Center in 1972, was a drastic one. Reviews weren’t merely dismissive; they expressed embarrassment for the composer, who leapt from his pedestal as an icon of classical music into the arms of hippies, flower children, and the Age of Aquarius. The work owed a distressing amount to Hair, the musical, and less obviously to Benjamin Britten and Bernstein’s own earlier works. As a spectacle, it combined the liturgy of the Latin Mass with episodes of the mob (updated with tie-dye, peasant blouses, and afros) jeering at the Church and belief in God generally. Bernstein wasn’t, shall we say, the most obvious candidate for a work of Christian devotion, and with eyes averted from the schlocky libretto -- crafted by Broadway baby Stephen Schwartz, who was young but no wunderkind-- the composer’s admirers chose to bury Mass as an ecumenical mess. The prevailing wisdom was that this, too, shall pass.

Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes


Montagu Slater, Libretto

Metropolitan Opera House, March 15, 2008, 1.30 pm (transmitted “live encore” in HD, March 29)

Donald Runnicles, Conductor

Peter Grimes – Anthony Dean Griffey
Ellen Orford – Patricia Racette
Captain Balstrode – Anthony Michaels-Moore
Mrs. Sedley
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