LANSDOWNE

SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Britten The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell Program Notes

Not  too  long  after  returning  from  Lenox,  Massachusetts,  where  he’d  workshopped  his  new  opera  Peter  Grimes  with  the  students  at  Tanglewood  (and  their  young  conductor,  Leonard  Bernstein),  English  composer  Benjamin  Britten  was  brought  into  another  education  project.    A  new  film,  The  Instruments  of  the  Orchestra,  was  to  be  produced  for  projecting  at  school  assemblies,  and  featured  the  Liverpool  Philharmonic  Orchestra  with  conductor  Malcolm  Sargent  conducting  and  speaking  the  narration  to  camera.    (In  live  performance,  narration  is  best  left  to  experts,  and  it  is  with  great  joy  we  welcome  Charlotte  Blake  Alston  to  narrate  this  performance!)  Britten’s  friend  and  collaborator  Eric  Crozier  wrote  the  narration.    (Crozier  also  wrote  the  libretto  to  Albert  Herring,  produced  the  first  British  production  of  Peter  Grimes,  and  was  a  co-founder  of  the  Aldeburgh  Festival).  As  a  musical  subject  for  the  introduction  and  thirteen  variations,  Britten  chose  a  theme  by  an  earlier  English  composer,  Henry  Purcell  (1659-95).      Today,  Purcell’s  most  famous  work  is  his  opera  Dido  &  Aeneas  (first  performed  1689),  but  this  melody  comes  from  incidental  music  to  the  tragic  English  play  Abdelazer.  After  the  orchestra’s  families  and  instruments  have  been  introduced  in  turn,  with  characteristic  and  inventive  variations,  the  piece’s  largest  section,  a  lively  fugue,  begins.    Each  of  the  instruments  enter  in  the  same  order  as  before,  and  once  they’re  all  playing  together,  Purcell’s  grand  theme  returns  to  end  the  piece.