Martyn Brabbins

Britten on Film

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It might reasonably be assumed that a collection of new performances of music Benjamin Britten wrote for industrial and educational films in the mid-'30s (e.g., Men Behind the Meters for the British Commercial Gas Association) would be of interest solely to the most rabid collectors of Britteniana. The music, however, is totally charming, and while it may not rank among the composer's greatest works, its inventiveness, illustrative power, compassion, and sly wit make this CD a real pleasure. Britten recycled some of the music; the score for The Tocher, in which he developed themes by Rossini, was the basis for his Soirées Musicales and Matinées Musicales. The perky music for The King's Stamp has the sophistication to stand alone as a 10-movement suite for flute, clarinet, percussion, and piano. Negroes, a film about the eighteenth century British slave trade, with a text by W.H. Auden, uses narration that's entirely sung in expressive recitative. It's essentially a cantata accompanied by a film, and it could easily be performed on its own. Martyn Brabbins leads the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, and the boy's choir of King Edward's School, Birmingham, in splendidly lively performances. Simon Russell Beale, delivering the original texts of the voice-overs, deserves great credit for setting just the right narrative tone for each of the diverse films. Tenor Daniel Auchincloss, who sounds eerily like Peter Pears, gives a moving performance in Negroes, and soprano Mary Carewe sparkles in the brief ad for the telephone service When you're feeling like expressing your affection.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Night Mail, film score for speaker & chamber ensemble
1 00:47 Amazon
2 00:55 Amazon
3 04:10 Amazon
The Tocher, film ballet for boys' voices, flute, oboe, clarinet, percussion & piano
4 01:53 Amazon
5 02:20 Amazon
6 02:01 Amazon
7 02:00 Amazon
8 01:23 Amazon
The King's Stamp, film score for flute or piccolo, clarinet, 2 pianos & percussion
9 00:38 Amazon
10 02:20 Amazon
11 00:40 Amazon
12 01:46 Amazon
13 02:48
14 00:56 Amazon
15 01:37 Amazon
16 00:53 Amazon
17 01:12
18 01:22 Amazon
Negroes/God's Chillun, film score for soloists, male chorus & chamber ensemble
19 03:01 Amazon
20 01:04 Amazon
21 01:04 Amazon
22 01:08 Amazon
23 00:58 Amazon
24 01:32 Amazon
25 03:26 Amazon
26 00:55 Amazon
The Way to the sea, film score for speaker, winds, percussion, harp & piano
27 00:33 Amazon
28 00:39 Amazon
29 00:48 Amazon
30 01:27 Amazon
31 01:19 Amazon
32 00:56 Amazon
33 00:41 Amazon
34 02:56 Amazon
35 03:00 Amazon
36 01:16 Amazon
37 01:54 Amazon
38 02:34 Amazon
39 01:32 Amazon
Men Behind the Meters, film score for flute, oboe, clarinet, glockenspiel, piano, violin & cello
40 00:22
41 01:34 Amazon
42 01:20 Amazon
Coal Face, film score for speaker, whistler, chorus, percussion & piano
43 00:39 Amazon
44 01:10 Amazon
45 00:42 Amazon
46 01:01 Amazon
47 00:28 Amazon
48 00:47
49 00:50 Amazon
50 01:04 Amazon
51 02:03 Amazon
52 02:26 Amazon
53 00:14 Amazon
54 00:28 Amazon
55 00:53 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick