Britten: A Birthday Hansel

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  • Gerald English (tenor), Marshall McGuire (harp)
  • Sydney Chamber Choir

After complications during heart surgery, Britten was unable to accompany his partner Peter Pears in recitals, and although he returned to composition this led to a number of works for tenor and harp (played by their long term colleague Osian Ellis), three of which appear in this collection, released to mark the passing of Britten's centenary.

These include A Birthday Hansel, first performed in January 1976 in a concert honouring the Queen Mother on her 75th birthday (she was Patron of the Aldeburgh Festival at the time). The year previously, Britten had composed Canticle V – The Death of Saint Narcissus for Pears and Ellis, with a text by TS Eliot.

There is a special poignancy to these works which followed his unsuccessful heart operation, often in the way they bravely confront death, as in the last movement of the Suite on English Folk Tunes – a small masterpiece which, even if nothing else of Britten’ s were to survive, would mark him as a great composer.