Hyperion Records

Tit for Tat
compiled 1968; first performed by John Shirley-Quirk & Britten at the 1969 Aldeburgh Festival; No 1: January 1929; No 2: 28 January 1931, originally composed for accompaniment by string quartet; No 3: 13 June 1928; No 4: 23 Dec 1930; No 5: early Jan 1929
author of text

'Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake' (CDA67778)
Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67778 
No 1: A Song of Enchantment
No 2: Autumn  There's a wind where the rose was
No 3: Silver  Slowly, silently, now the moon
No 4: Vigil  Dark is the night
No 5: Tit for Tat  Have you been catching of fish, Tom Noddy?

Tit for Tat
The many poems set to music by Britten when he was a prolific schoolboy composer date from long before he met Pears, and the composer’s literary choices were at that early stage fairly conservative. Britten’s favourite poet during his youth was Walter de la Mare, and in 1968 the mature composer assembled a set of five of his juvenile settings of de la Mare’s poetry under the title Tit for Tat, which was given its first performance by John Shirley-Quirk and the composer at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1969. In his programme note written for the occasion, Britten commented that he had made his selection from songs composed between the ages of fourteen and seventeen; he said that he had ‘cleaned them very slightly, and here at this first performance, offer them in gratitude to the poet’s son, the wise and encouraging chairman of my new publishers, whose father’s poems have meant so much to me all through my life.’ (The reference was to Richard de la Mare, who was celebrating his seventieth birthday in that year, and who had become Chairman of Faber Music in 1966, having previously served as Chairman of the parent company Faber & Faber.) Britten’s punctilious attention to detail in his manuscripts meant that all the songs could be dated fairly precisely: ‘A Song of Enchantment’ was composed in January 1929, ‘Autumn’ (originally accompanied by string quartet) on 28 January 1931, ‘Silver’ on 13 June 1928, ‘Vigil’ on 23 December 1930, and the concluding title song in the first two weeks of 1929. In his preface to the published score, Britten noted that ‘oddly enough, the inadequacies seemed to be more striking in the later songs—new musical styles had appeared on the composer’s horizon too recently to be assimilated … At any rate, although I hold no claims whatever for the songs’ importance or originality, I do feel that the boy’s vision has a simplicity and clarity which might have given a little pleasure to the great poet, with his unique insight into a child’s mind.’

from notes by Mervyn Cooke © 2010

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDA67778 track 23
Tit for Tat
Recording date
13 December 2008
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Britten: Songs & Proverbs of William Blake (CDA67778)
    Disc 1 Track 23
    Release date: June 2010
   English   Français   Deutsch