Friday, April 15, 2005

"The Company of Heaven" (a few selections) Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

This I chose because one, it's britten, and two it's got an organ.

War in Heaven:
So it starts with drums, then strings, then the males of the choir chant with wonderful syncopations about this war in heaven, punctuated by the organ and strings and percussion. There's even this falling shout gesture that is followed by a beautiful string melody toward the end, underscored by the organ, which makes me think that more string and organ should be written for.

Heaven is Here:
This follows immediately after, and is a soprano solo over the choir and orchestra. The men sing very high at some points--soft angelic voices, I like that. There's a melodic gesture that runs through the choir that I really get in to, this one sweep is almost a little jazzy and barber-shop-ish, while the soprano is a rich thick classical sound overlay to that. Interesting effect. Then the narrator starts talking again...

A thousand, thousand gleaming fires:
Starts with a crazy string ostinato-ish gesture which quickly gets developed, but stays creepy. This is the tenor solo, pretty voice. The strings switch and become more lyrical toward the middle. More narration follows.

Funeral March for a Boy:
Begins with narration, with drums underneath. The violins begin the melody with a dotted rhythmic gesture, repeated--these are funeral drums, naturally. Suddenly the music tries to change mood, but it doesn't help as the violins keep moving the gestures back into minor modes, etc...but there is a sort of bitter sweet feel or a confusion of felicity, beauty and death.

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