Saturday, January 19, 2013

Double Britten for Double Pianos

Cover design for American repackaging (EDA-17)
(restored by Peter Joelson)
As I mentioned in my New Year's Day post commemorating Morton Gould's centenary, Benjamin Britten also has an anniversary this year (he was born Nov. 22, 1913).  Britten, despite being a very fine pianist, left very little solo music for his own instrument, and most of what we do have dates from early in his career.  Ironically, perhaps his finest works to feature the piano without voices or other instruments are these two pieces for not one, but two pianos, written in 1940 and 1941, while he was in the USA, for the duo-piano team of Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson:

Britten: Introduction and Rondo alla Burlesca, Op. 23, No. 1 and
Mazurka Elegiaca, Op. 23, No. 2
Clifford Curzon and Benjamin Britten, pianos
Recorded January 5, 1944
English Decca AK 1117 and 1118, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 44.6 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 23.11 MB)

Irving Kolodin, in his 1950 "New Guide to Recorded Music," evaluated this set thus: "Curzon's fingers and Britten's authority combine to make listenable sounds in this album. I doubt, however, that it would have been recorded were the composer less a celebrity than Britten."  In fact, Britten didn't really achieve celebrity status until Peter Grimes was premiered, a full year and a half after this recording was made!  Decca simply recognized his genius early on.  They were the first to record his music - back in 1937 - when the Charles Brill Orchestra committed to wax his Rossini arrangement, Soirées Musicales, and an Irish Reel composed for a film score.  These can both be heard at the CHARM website.


  1. Hello Bryan,

    Thank you for all your uploads, a few of which I have downloaded.

    I have well over 5,000 each of CDs, LPs and cassettes, together with 2.5 tb of downloads - so hopefully I can be considered a music lover.

    I do not know why people rate J S Bach and Britten so highly? - I have never taken to them, and also to instrumental music - it all bores me to tears. Am I missing something????

    Thank you for reminding me about CHARM - I'll see if there is anything of interest to download.

    Keep up your very "educational" work.


    Douglas (UK)

  2. Thanks!

    FYI, the flac is being blocked, or is it BLOC? The mp3 is okay so far.

  3. Douglas, As a Bach lover I can't agree, tho' you gotta love counterpoint. Britten I'd call "interesting" more than anything
    else. There's tons of good stuff on CHARM sound files; enjoy!

    flac earns a resounding PERMISSION DENIED from wildfire = mp3
    works fine. Odd, usually neither works....