NMC NM 0190
Britten to America – Samuel West (narrator), Andrew Kennedy, Jean Rigby, Mary Carewe, Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey Skidmore (conductor); Mervyn Cooke, Lucy Walker (piano), Matthew Dickinson (percussion), Huw Watkins (piano), Harry Ogg (assistant conductor), Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder
What better way to mark the end of Britten’s centenary than by releasing some previously unrecorded works, the majority of which have not been heard since they were performed in the 1940s. This is Britten with a difference – there are blues numbers, jazz, a ‘Tibetan’ chant, a Bach chorale, and even a ukulele player.
Britten made the hazardous journey from the United States back to England in the spring of 1942. Within a few weeks he had to face a Tribunal, which exempted him from military service as a conscientious objector. In his statement to the Tribunal he had said, ‘I believe sincerely that I can help my fellow human beings best by continuing the work I am best qualified to do’, and almost immediately he began giving concerts with Peter Pears in towns, rural villages, and prisons. He also wrote major scores for radio propaganda programmes, including An American in England, six programmes about wartime conditions in England, produced by the BBC for live transmission in the USA by CBS, and Britain to America, three programmes that were part of a weekly transmission by NBC.
Music from these two series is complemented by incidental music to two plays by Auden and Isherwood, The Ascent of F6 and On the Frontier, and by ‘Roman Wall Blues’ from Hadrian’s Wall, a lost radio production with Auden.