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Hyperion Records

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The Chariot of Apollo (c1909) by Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Sotheby’s Picture Library
Track(s) taken from CDA67625
Recording details: September 2007
Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2008
Total duration: 6 minutes 56 seconds

Young Apollo, Op 16
composer
1939; piano, string quartet & string orchestra; commissioned by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; dedicated to Alexander Chuhaldin who conducted Britten in the 1st perf, Toronto, 27 August 1939; title alludes to Keats' Hyperion; withdrawn by Britten

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Britten and Pears arrived in North America on 9 May 1939 in Quebec, remaining in Canada for several weeks before travelling to New York State. Less than six weeks after their arrival, Britten had heard the Canadian premiere of his Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge conducted by Alexander Chuhaldin, which seems to have led to his first commission in North America, from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for a ‘fanfare’ for piano, string quartet and string orchestra. This was Young Apollo Op 16, which Britten himself premiered in Toronto under Chuhaldin (to whom the work is dedicated) on 27 August 1939, followed by a second performance on 20 December in New York. As with the Piano Concerto, both performances of Young Apollo were broadcast; we may hope that, after seventy years, recordings of these broadcasts have survived, but they have so far yet to see the light of day.

The title Young Apollo refers to a line in Keats’s unfinished poem Hyperion: ‘He stands before us—the new dazzling Sun-god, quivering with radiant vitality.’ This is as good an image as any around which to create a ‘fanfare’-like work, and Britten’s Op 16 carries the brilliance of the Piano Concerto’s Toccata one stage further, in that it is remarkably monotonal. Indeed, the A major tonality (a key of special significance for Britten in expressing such characteristics) is constant throughout, a fact which has led some commentators to suggest that this was the reason Britten withdrew the work after the second performance (it was not heard again until 1979, three years after his death). But the Sinfonia da Requiem (a work three times the length of Young Apollo) is similarly monotonal, centred upon D, in each of its three conjoined movements, and, moreover, has a triple pulse virtually throughout. In Young Apollo Britten avoids monotony by extraordinary varieties of texture (the utilization of string quartet and string orchestra) and of keyboard writing; he never explained his decision to withdraw the score.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 2008

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