Benjamin Britten

Festival Te Deum, for trumpet, chorus & organ, Op. 32

    Description by James Reel

    Britten wrote extensively for chorus, but he set standard liturgical texts on only three occasions (not counting his highly unorthodox War Requiem): an early Te Deum (1935), to which he appended a Jubilate in 1961, and this Festival Te Deum, composed for the 1944 centenary of St. Mark's Church in Swindon. Despite the mostly Latin title, this work employs an English translation of the usual text. Britten also maintains a minor degree of musical tension through this eight-minute work (or perhaps comments on the staid, unchanging nature of the church) by restricting the organ to a steady dotted-half-note accompaniment, even while the chorus widely enjoys varying tempi. The opening section, "We praise thee, O God," initially sounds like accompanied plainchant, but quickly takes more modern (but not dissonant) harmonic turns and achieves a little climax on the words "Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Sabaoth!" Although Te Deums are traditionally noisy, triumphal affairs (think of works by Bruckner and Dvorák), Britten keeps the chorus in a state of hushed awe until the fast, jubilant outburst of "Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ." After this substantial passage, though, Britten scales everything back for an ethereal soprano solo on the words "O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine heritage." The full chorus edges back in, building to a climax on the first half of the final line, "O Lord, in Thee have I trusted," but then withdrawing to a softer delivery of the words "let me never be confounded," which are repeated by the high soprano soloist as the organ accompaniment fades away.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Signum Classics SIGCD 409
    2014 United Classics T 2 CD 20113021
    2013 Delphian DCD 34133
    2013 EMI Classics 151565
    2013 Decca 4785364
    2013 Decca
    2013 Novum NCR 1386
    2013 Hyperion CDH 55445
    2013 Coro CRO 16107
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921752
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 5627962
    2008 Hyperion 67680
    2007 Hyperion CDH-55307
    2006 Musica Di Angeli 99181
    2006 Priory Records PRCD 934
    2006 Centaur Records 2773
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 62797
    2003 Coro 16006
    2003 Guild 7265
    2000 Naxos 554791
    1998 Chandos 9598
    1998 Gothic Records 49097
    1995 Priory Records 507
    1992 Chesky CHESKYCD 83
    1991 Hyperion 66439
    Hyperion CDA-66126
    Collins Records 13702
    RCA 1217
    Musica Di Angeli 99191
    Pro Organo 7037