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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55154
Recording details: June 1995
St Michael's Church, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: October 1995
Total duration: 12 minutes 37 seconds

'One of the most magical discs of Britten yet made' (Fanfare, USA)

'I can highly recommend this CD for the wonderful mixture of Britten's chamber works and the all-round excellent playing' (Musician)

'Michael Dussek s'y montre remarquable. Sarah Francis qui dispose d'une gamme dramatique et expressive exceptionelle' (Répertoire, France)

Temporal Variations

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Britten had already written his deft Two Insect Pieces for oboe and piano in 1935 when in the following year he returned to the medium with something more substantial. The next work to be completed after Our Hunting Fathers, the Temporal Variations are based on a lean and hungry funeral march ‘theme’ that seems unable to escape from its semitonal point of departure. The theme is as much a kind of wordless recitative as anything resembling a melody as such, and Britten exploits this loose shape in a number of free variations which ennoble or parody it according to the chosen character. In its mixture of menace and gay abandon, beauty and the grotesque, seriousness and slapstick humour we may glimpse something of the appeal which Shostakovich was to make to Britten when he encountered that composer’s music for the first time in his opera Lady Macbeth in London the following year. And if Britten steals unashamedly from Mahler, Bartók, Ravel and Schoenberg in these Variations of 1935 it is interesting that the March (III) was to provide the source for a striking bit of self-borrowing when he came to write the Marcia fourth movement of his Sonata for cello and piano in 1961. It is fascinating also to catch a glimpse in Oration (II) of the gleaming fanfare imagery of ‘Let the florid music praise’ in the forthcoming Auden cycle, On this Island, a type of imagery more thoroughly to be exploited in the cyclic process of Les Illuminations.

from notes by Eric Roseberry © 1995

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